“On June 9, deadly clashes broke out in northern Myanmar between the country’s army and the ethnic minority Kachin Independence Army (KIA). […] The current skirmish is the latest in a string of clashes along Myanmar’s troubled periphery, all linked to a junta plan to incorporate ethnic groups that had signed cease-fire agreements into a unified Border Guard Force (BGF) ahead of last November’s election. In August 2009, tensions over the BGF plan also exploded into open clashes in the Kokang Special Region of Shan state, sending 30,000 refugees fleeing over the Chinese border and greatly riling China’s leadership. Since the election, fighting has also erupted across Karen state to the south and in other parts of Shan state.”
“The skirmishes in Kachin state are also closely intertwined with Chinese interests in the region, where Beijing is building a series of hydropower dams that have stoked local resentment and become a focus of longstanding grievances.”
“In a briefing released last September, the International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote (.pdf) that the Kokang conflict had “dramatically changed China’s view” of Myanmar’s ethnic groups. Previously, China saw them as buffers that could be played off against Naypyidaw for strategic gain. After it became apparent that Myanmar was willing to use force to root out recalcitrant armed groups, Beijing began to see minority groups as a liability and potential source of instability. Myanmar’s leaders, too, began to seem “less trustworthy and capable of unpredictable behavior.””
“In the recent string of ethnic conflicts, this has translated to a greater willingness by China to take the lead in bringing all sides to the table. Chinese-brokered talks were held last year between military leaders and” armed ethnic groups.
“the Chinese, while not “altruistic” in their approach to the situation, could help bring about a resolution to the fighting. “It’s well within their interests to avoid conflict and settle things peacefully””.
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