Beijing’s Discombobulted Buffer With Burma

China’s border with Myanmar has long been pretty porous. Kokang, an enclave in Shan state on the Burmese side, has acted as a buffer zone between the two countries. The Wa who live there are ethnic Han and Mandarin speaking but, unlike other semi-autonomous minorities in Burma, threw in their lot with the ruling regime after the collapse of Communist rule two decades ago.

All of which makes the recent outbreak of fighting between the government and Kokang militia unexpected — and a surprise to Beijing, too, which was not informed in advance that Burmese military forces would be moving against Kokang in order to establish the regime’s control in Shan ahead of elections next year, and force all the semi-autonomous minorities to participate. The fighting, which seems to have been relatively short lived in that the Kokang fighters were quickly overrun though only eight were said to have been killed, sent 37,000 Kokang residents fleeing into southern Yunnan, where they have been housed in makeshift tented refugee camps in the border town of Nansan. Xinhua reports that, now the fighting appears to have died down, the refugees are starting to return.

However, one  Chinese citizen was killed and two others injured by three shells fired into the Chinese territory, Xinhua says, while a second Chinese citizen was killed and 13 more injured on the Burmese side of the border. Beijing has issued a rare rebuke to the Burmese military regime. It likes its buffer zones to be stable. Nor is trouble among anyone’s ethnic minorities to its taste.

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