‘A real blow for the junta’: Myanmar’s ethnic groups captured 135km long trading zone in unprecedented armed resistance

Members of an ethnic rebel group patrol a front line area near government military positions in the Kayin State of Myanmar, March 9, 2022. Myanmar’s military regime announced Monday that it had executed four pro-democracy activists, the first executions in the Southeast Asian nation in more than three decades. (Adam Dean/The New York Times)

Myanmar rebels seize town from military junta despite China-backed ceasefire. Ethnic minority fighters battling Myanmar’s junta said Saturday they seized a trading hub in Shan state, days after China said it had mediated a temporary ceasefire.

Clashes have raged across Myanmar’s northern Shan state since the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) launched a joint offensive late October.

The three allied groups – known as the Three Brotherhood Alliance – say they have captured military positions and border hubs vital for trade with China, posing what analysts say is the biggest military challenge to the junta since it seized power in 2021.

On Thursday, Beijing announced a temporary ceasefire between the alliance and the Myanmar military. There have been peaceful spells in MNDAA-held areas, but clashes have continued in areas controlled by the TNLA and the AA.

The TNLA said they captured Namhsan on Friday after launching an attack in the area more than two weeks ago.

“We got the town,” Brigadier-General Tar Bhone Kyaw told AFP. The TNLA posted video footage on Facebook showing leaders of the group visiting the town and talking to junta soldiers taken prisoner.

Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesperson for Myanmar’s army, also told state-run TV channel MRTV on Friday that fighting was continuing around Namhsan.

According to TNLA’s Tar Bhone Kyaw, the Myanmar army also lost the 135-km Trade Zone, a major trading conduit on the border with China in Muse township, Shan state.

In total, the three-group alliance says they have seized 422 bases and seven towns from Myanmar’s army since October 27.

The alliance’s offensive has galvanised other opponents of the junta and clashes have spread to the east and the west of Myanmar. More than half a million people have been forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

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