Myanmar army seeks to restore order as rebel alliance launches surprise attacks

(Reuters) – Myanmar’s ruling military on Friday said it was seeking to restore order near the border with China after an alliance of ethnic minority armies launched a series of surprise coordinated attacks on junta targets.

The unrest took place in northern Shan state after the “three brotherhood alliance”, a united front of ethnic minority armies in Shan and Rakhine states, said they were seeking to defend their territory and civilians from attacks by the junta.

“We are dedicated to eradicating the oppressive military dictatorship, a shared aspiration of the entire Myanmar populace,” the alliance said in a statement, which prompted pledges of support from other anti-junta groups.

Two military posts were seized early on Friday, the junta and the alliance said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The operation comes two weeks after at least 29 civilians were killed at a refugee camp at the border with China in neighbouring Kachin state by an artillery strike blamed on the military, which denied involvement.

China, among the few countries that engages the Myanmar generals, has for years chafed over conflict at its border and its impact on trade.

“We are trying to control the situation,” spokesperson for Myanmar’s ruling military council, Zaw Min Tun, told local media. “We can control the towns but we are still clearing routes.”

Myanmar has been in crisis since the military launched a coup in 2021 and embarked on a deadly crackdown that gave rise to a nationwide resistance movement that won the backing of several ethnic minority armies.

Rights groups and United Nations experts have accused the military of committing atrocities against civilians in its efforts to crush the resistance. The junta says it is fighting “terrorists” and has ignored international calls to cease hostilities.

The alliance said it launched the operation to protect territory and civilian lives and “respond resolutely to ongoing artillery attacks and air strikes” by the military.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Toby Chopra)