China seeks ceasefire in Burma border zone

China's government announced Dec. 14 that it had mediated a short-term ceasefire to the conflict between the Burmese junta and armed groups of ethnic peoples in the northern regions near the Chinese border. The conflict has been escalating since the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) launched Operation 1027 in Burma's northern Shan state in late October. None of the parties to the conflict have commented on the supposed ceasefire.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning stated that discussions between Burma's military and the three groups yielded various agreements, "including the temporary ceasefire and maintaining the momentum of dialogue." She continued:

China hopes that relevant parties in Myanmar can speed up efforts to implement what has been agreed, exercise maximum restraint, actively ease the situation on the ground, promptly manage sporadic confrontation events and together realize the soft landing of the situation in northern Myanmar.

The rebel armies have joined as a self-declared Three Brotherhood Alliance seeking control of Burma's northeast, home to the Kokang ethnic group with strong ties to China. The insurgency, targeting key border points between Burma and China, has threatened the security of military positions and border crossings vital for trade between the two countries.

China is a key ally and arms provider for Burma's junta.

From Jurist, Dec. 15. Used with permission.

Notes: Despite its efforts to broker a ceasefire in Shan state, China is contnuing to conduct live-fire military drills on its side of the frontier. The drills aim to ensure "that the People's Liberation Army is ready for any emergency," China's military said in a statement last month. In a report on the exercises, Myanmar Now said they are indicative of an "oscillation of Beijing's stance" toward Burma.

The UN Security Council on Dec. 21, 2022 passed a resolution condemning repression by the Burmese junta, and calling for the release of political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi. (Jurist) Resolution 2669 passed by a vote of 12 in favor to none against, with three abstentions—China, India, and the Russian. (UN Press) This was a shift for China and Russia, which that May had vetoed a similar resolution. (The Diplomat)

This November, Burma carried out its first-ever joint naval exercises with Russia, off the country's Andaman coast. Junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing met with Russia's navy commander Adm. Nikolai Evmenov on board the destroyer Admiral Tributs. (Al Jazeera)

See our last report on the Three Brotherhood Alliance.

Burma junta accused of war crimes in deadly air-strikes

Burma's military junta is being accused of war crimes as it responds to offensives by armed ethnic and resistance groups in various parts of the country. Amnesty International says the junta used internationally banned cluster munitions in an air-strike in Shan state earlier this month. They also alleged that it has committed wide-scale indiscriminate attacks that have led to civilian casualties, especially in Rakhine state. (TNH)

There has been a string of deadly junta air-strikes in northern Burma this year.

Burma again top opium producer

Burma has officially replaced Afghanistan as the world's largest opium producer, according to the UN. Analysts credit the switch largely to a Taliban ban that has seen Afghanistan's poppy production reduced by 95%. But production has still risen by more than a third in Burma, prompting fears the increased drug trade will fuel already escalating conflict. (TNH)

Cybercrime at issue in China-Burma relations

When they launched their offensive, the Brotherhood Alliance vowed to tackle online fraud as one of their priorities—something that Beijing had been pressing the ruling junta of Min Aung Hlaing to do for months. Seemingly to demonstrate that the junta has been doing its best to address the problem, the dictator cited recent arrest figures. Of the nearly 7,800 suspects who have been detained by his regime, he said, the vast majority—7,395, to be exact—were Chinese citizens.

When Qin Gang, Beijing's new minister for foreign affairs, visited Naypyidaw in May, it was widely seen as a sign of support for the junta. Even then, however, there were signs of dissatisfaction from China. Burmese state media reported on discussions about collaboration in infrastructure projects as part of China's Belt & Road Initiative, but made no mention of the online fraud issue—something that was highlighted in reports on the visit by China's state media. The next month, however, the junta made its first fraud-related arrests and handed over six suspects to the Chinese authorities.

But the regime has not been alone in being on the defensive about this problem, which has become a major headache for Beijing. In September, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic armed group, repatriated more than 1,200 Chinese nationals accused of committing cybercrimes from its territory. The UWSA, like the members of the Brotherhood Alliance, maintains close ties to China. (Myanmar Now)