Myanmar rebel groups have announced the launch of a coordinated offensive named “Operation 1027,” aimed at fighting against the military junta that has been in control of the country since February 1, 2021. This operation, led by the Three Brotherhood Alliance, consisting of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA), has gained momentum and support from China, as it aligns with China’s interest in cracking down on transnational crime in the region.
According to Jason Tower, the Myanmar program director for the United States Institute of Peace, the Chinese government has realized the detrimental impact of criminal activities under the protection of the Myanmar army on China. This realization prompted China to support the rebel offensive, particularly in addressing cybercriminals who target Chinese consumers.
The coordinated rebel offensive has resulted in the capture of at least four towns, including a crucial border crossing with China, and the overrunning of more than 100 junta outposts. The offensive mainly targets pro-junta militias and military-sponsored Border Guard Forces (BGF) operating in the Kokang Self Administrative Zone (SAZ).
The rebel groups assert that the Myanmar-junta-aligned security forces have been inactive in pursuing criminals that China is concerned about. They claim that the Burmese-junta-aligned security forces have done little to go after the criminals that Beijing is concerned about.
The rebel crackdown has also led to the release of Chinese nationals and others who were detained by online scammers. The offensive has been effective in eradicating the illegal criminal activity prevalent in the SAZ, resulting in the shutdown of these lucrative criminal operations along the Chinese border. The rebels maintain that the implementation of Operation 1027 has exerted pressure on the military to take action against the criminal enterprises.
One significant event that prompted Chinese support for Operation 1027 was a mass killing at a scam center in the Kokang SAZ last month. Scores of Chinese nationals were reportedly murdered by the Border Guard Force police as they tried to escape from the compound. This tragedy led to support from China for the rebel operation.
The rebel offensive also revealed that cybercrime had become deeply entwined with China’s efforts to curb criminal enterprises and the trafficking of Chinese nationals. This development, in addition to the mass killing, prompted China’s decision to support the operation, marking a potential shift in the country’s relations with Myanmar factions.
The Chinese support for the rebel offensive, however, has raised concerns about the future of Sino-Myanmar relations. Some experts believe that China is facing a dilemma as it remains unsure if the Brotherhood’s operation will succeed and is concerned about potential repercussions for trade and economic investment by China near the border.
Despite the complexities surrounding China’s support for Operation 1027, the coordinated rebel offensive, backed by Chinese interests, has undeniably brought attention to the region’s challenges and the urgency to address transnational crime. As the situation continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how Myanmar’s civil war and Sino-Myanmar relations will evolve in response to these developments.