Myanmar military withdraws: Ethnic alliance seizes Laukkaing

In a pivotal shift in Myanmar’s ongoing conflict landscape, the military’s withdrawal from Laukkaing, a crucial city on the northeastern border, marks a significant milestone in the war between the government forces and ethnic armed groups.

The military administration in Myanmar has confirmed the withdrawal of its troops from an important city, Laukkaing, situated on the northeastern border adjacent to China. The city was seized by a coalition of ethnic armed groups, marking a significant development in the ongoing conflict between these groups and the military government.

The capture of Laukkaing on Thursday night stands as a notable setback for Myanmar’s military leadership, showcasing a series of defeats following the offensive initiated by an ethnic alliance on October 27. This event underscores the immense pressure faced by the government in its struggle against both pro-democracy forces, arising after the military coup in 2021, and armed ethnic factions across the nation.

Ethnic armed organizations have long fought for increased autonomy, intensifying conflicts within Myanmar since the military’s seizure of power from the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021. This power shift triggered widespread armed resistance from pro-democracy factions at a national level.

The Three Brotherhoods Alliance, comprised of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the Arakan Army, successfully claimed control of Laukkaing. Notably, the MNDAA represents the Kokang minority, predominantly of Chinese descent.

Social media platforms displayed images and videos depicting an extensive array of captured weaponry boasted by the alliance.

Laukkaing serves as the capital of the Kokang Self-Governed Area, a significant region within northern Shan State, Myanmar.

A spokesperson for the Myanmar government, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, communicated to the Popular News Journal, a pro-military publication, on Saturday that the military and its local commanders opted to relinquish control of Laukkaing after considering various factors, including the security of stationed soldiers’ families.

Zaw Min Tun further emphasized that Myanmar’s relationship with neighboring China factored into the decision. The proximity of Laukkaing to China prompted considerations, given China’s amicable ties with both the military and the ethnic alliance, with Beijing actively advocating for an end to the conflict.

Tensions escalated when artillery shells landed in Chinese territory on Wednesday, causing injuries to five individuals. Zaw Min Tun attributed the incident to the alliance and accused them of attempting to sabotage Myanmar’s relationship with China by falsely implicating the military.

In a social media statement released on Friday night, the alliance declared the entirety of the Kokang region as a “Military Council-free zone,” referring to Myanmar’s ruling junta.

The statement highlighted the surrender of 2,389 soldiers, including six brigadier generals, along with their families on Friday. All surrendered personnel were safely evacuated to a secure location, as noted by the alliance.

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