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China launches live-fire drills on Myanmar’s border

Victories by anti-regime forces 'should compel ASEAN to act tough' with the ruling military
Senior officers from Myanmar's Navy (right) welcome members of the Chinese navy upon their arrival in Yangon on Nov. 27, 2023. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has launched land and air force live-fire exercises along the Chinese-Myanmar frontier.

Senior officers from Myanmar's Navy (right) welcome members of the Chinese navy upon their arrival in Yangon on Nov. 27, 2023. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has launched land and air force live-fire exercises along the Chinese-Myanmar frontier. (Photo:AFP)

Published: April 18, 2024 06:27 AM GMT
Updated: April 18, 2024 06:54 AM GMT

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has launched land and air force live-fire exercises along the Chinese-Myanmar frontier near territory across the border where the junta has surrendered control to ethnic militias after five months of intense battles.

Drills are being conducted by the Southern Theater Command, which observers said served as a reminder for the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and the People’s Defence Force (PDF) that Beijing’s oil and gas pipeline, stretching across Myanmar into China, would be protected.

A statement issued by the Southern Command said the exercises were in accordance with annual training plans and aimed at testing reconnaissance and early warning systems, air defense and other capabilities, including emergency responses while safeguarding national sovereignty.

At a regular briefing with reporters in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian on April 16 said in regards to the drills that China’s position on Myanmar remained consistent and clear.

“China calls on all parties to stop the fighting, resolve disputes through dialogue and consultation and by peaceful means, and avoid any escalation of the situation,” he said.

China held similar live fire exercises about two weeks ago near its border with Myanmar where the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) claimed control of the last junta outpost along a 60-km stretch of road leading to the frontier.

The KIA is one of about 20 EAOs aligned with the PDF — the armed wing of the National Unity Government (NUG), Myanmar's government-in-exile — which has been fighting a three-year civil war that erupted after the junta ousted the elected government.

Battlefield gains have resulted in the EAO-PDF winning control of Myanmar’s borders with Thailand, Laos, China, India, and Bangladesh, including the city of Myawaddy on the Thai frontier where thousands of people have fled conscription.

Charles Santiago, co-chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said victories by anti-regime forces and the conscription edict should pressure members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) into taking a tougher stand against the junta.

With the exception of Indonesia and Singapore, ASEAN has been accused of being too soft on the junta, especially in regards to its treatment of Muslim Rohingya and conscription targeting 5,000 recruits a month.

“The forced conscription of Rohingya, who the junta has deprived of basic rights and forced out of their homes, displays yet another level of cravenness and shamelessness,” he said.

“Coercing Rohingya to fight on behalf of their oppressors, pitting them against their compatriots in the anti-junta forces, while at the same time denying them citizenship, is a new low for the junta.”

He urged ASEAN and the international community to enforce targeted economic sanctions and a comprehensive arms embargo and refer the junta, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, to the International Criminal Court as “there is nothing the junta will not stoop to.”

“As long as the junta is allowed to continue such depravity, the influx of refugees along Myanmar’s borders will only be exacerbated,” Santiago said.

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