China Prepares for Spillover From Myanmar Civil War

As international businesses circle an apparently reforming Myanmar, civil war continues to burn in the north of the country despite Chinese-hosted peace talks. Unsettled by stray shells hurtling over the border into Yunnan, China has started intense military training in the area in case any more serious spillover should occur. From Edward Wong at The New York Times:

The training has been taking place in the hills of Yunnan Province. It borders Kachin State in northern Myanmar, where a civil war between an ethnic Kachin rebel army and the Burmese Army has been unfolding. The fighting intensified in late December, and Chinese officials and news organizations reported that shells had landed in China and that Kachin refugees had begun living in hotels and the homes of family and friends in Yunnan.

[…] The current round of fighting in Kachin State has centered on the town of Laiza, from which the Kachin army controls an autonomous area of the state. This winter, the Burmese Army has been pressing an offensive to capture Laiza or crucial military positions around it. The army has deployed fighter jets and heavy artillery, and residents have said civilians were killed.

[…] Chinese officials have expressed concern this winter over the violence, especially artillery shells falling within Yunnan; at least four have landed since Dec. 30. There are also worries about a potential flood of refugees.

Human Rights Watch reported in June last year that at least 7-10,000 Kachin refugees had crossed the border in the previous twelve months, and had not received adequate aid or protection from China. Two months later, they were reportedly forced to return, though state media claimed that those who went back had done so of their own accord.

The Wall Street Journal’s Deborah Kan and south-east Asia bureau chief Patrick McDowell discussed the conflict and China’s stake in it earlier this month, as the peace talks began:

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