Myanmar president: country at risk of breaking apart due to clashes

(Reuters) – The president of military-ruled Myanmar has said the country is at risk of breaking apart due to ineffective management of recent violence in its border regions with China.

The Myanmar junta is facing the biggest challenge to its authority since it seized power in a 2021 coup, with a surge in attacks by pro-democracy and ethnic minority insurgents on junta bases in the north, northeast, northwest and southeast.

“If the government does not effectively manage the incidents happening in the border region, the country will be split into various parts,” Myint Swe, president of the State Administration Council, told a national defence and security council meeting.

“It is necessary to carefully control this issue. As now is an important time for the state, the entire people need to support Tatmadaw,” he said, referring to the military.

The military has for decades insisted that it is the only institution capable of holding the diverse former British colony together, using that argument to justify its grip on power and to crush opposition.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the 2021 coup when the generals ousted an elected government led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, bringing an end to 10 years of tentative reform after decades of strict military rule.

The junta has in recent days lost control of some trading towns on the border with China to an alliance of guerrilla factions.

There have also been numerous reports of clashes elsewhere between the military and opposition fighters. Reuters had not been able to verify those reports.

China confirmed this week that there had been Chinese casualties because of firing from the Myanmar fighting spilling over onto China’s side of the border.

China’s foreign ministry on Thursday urged its citizens to stay away from areas with “fierce conflicts” and avoid travelling to Myanmar.

“Chinese citizens who have already been in the local areas of intense conflict should pay close attention to the development of the situation and move to safety or return to China,” the ministry said in a statement.

China has extensive economic interests in Myanmar.

An assistant Chinese foreign minister, Nong Rong, called on Myanmar during a visit last week to cooperate with China to maintain border stability. He also asked for measures to protect Chinese interests.

(Reporting by Reuters staff, additional reporting by Bernard Orr in Beijing; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Michael Perry)