Has Beijing assigned a disdain to Myanmar’s military regime? | Conflicting news

Bangkok/Yangon – Beijing’s apparent refusal to accept an invitation to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to attend a regional meeting in Myanmar has been interpreted by one of its most powerful patrons as a subtle disregard for Naypyidaw’s military rulers.

China’s failure to respond to an invitation to the planned Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) summit comes amid growing international isolation of the military regime in Myanmar and its failure to ability reduce armed opposition to its rule in the country and ensure international legitimacy.

Founded and led by China to promote “regional peace, stability and prosperity”, the LMC comprises the five Southeast Asian countries through which the Mekong River flows: Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Mekong River is also known as Lancang in parts of China that it traverses from its source on the Tibetan Plateau.

Holding the LMC’s rotating seat in 2022, Myanmar is expected to host the organization’s summit late last year, two sources familiar with planning the event told Al Jazeera . Myanmar’s military leader, Senior Lieutenant General Min Aung Hlaing, Li of China and leaders from five Southeast Asian countries are expected to attend.

But the summit never took place as China did not respond to the invitation.

Michael Ng, a former Hong Kong government official who has close diplomatic ties in Southeast Asia, said: “Beijing has not responded to the government’s invitation nor has it set a date or time. attendance.

Ng, who until recently was Deputy Chief of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Bangkok, noted that no senior Chinese official had met Min Aung Hlaing face-to-face since the February coup. 2021.

“Failure to respond to an invitation to the LMC summit may not have been a simple mistake,” he said.

“China’s coldness may be motivated by the consideration that Premier Li’s meeting with Min Aung Hlaing means full, official support for the military regime,” Ng said.

When the Chinese Foreign Minister at that time was Wang Yi attending the LMC ministers’ meeting in Bagan of Myanmar in July 2022, he met his military-designated Myanmar counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin.

The LMC’s China Secretariat in Beijing and the Chinese embassy in Yangon did not respond to Al Jazeera’s email requests for comment as to why the summit meeting was not held.

Beijing’s absence from the proposed summit also comes as Myanmar’s ministers have been barred from attending meetings of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after the bloc no progress in meetings. implement the five-point peace plan outlined initiated by ASEAN in April 2021 to end the violence perpetrated by the military taking power.

Jason Tower, Myanmar country director at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), also said Beijing had not responded to the military’s invitation.

Tower told Al Jazeera: “China has not followed through with the proposal to convene the Leaders’ meeting in Myanmar before the end of 2022.

By staying away, China seems to signal that it will not prioritize its relationship with military regime on its relationship with ASEAN Tower said.

“Min Aung Hlaing’s attempt to leverage the LMC to build legitimacy in the region has failed, and China has found that the response is favorable to the LMC leaders’ request to convene a meeting of the LMC in the region. he would undermine ASEAN centrality and draw fierce criticism from a number of significant ASEAN states. ” he told Al Jazeera.

“Beijing’s concerns certainly include provoking a strong response from ASEAN countries, which view such a high-level convening in connection with the illegitimate military junta as undermining consensus,” he said. ASEAN does not invite the government to participate in such meetings,” he said.

China, he added, is “unwilling to undermine ties with ASEAN in exchange for supporting a military regime that has so far proven incapable of implementing strategic economic plans.” strategy of China”.

China invests in post-coup Myanmar

Beijing’s concerns may be more than just diplomacy with Myanmar as conflict intensifies in the country. undermining the investment environment.

According to an analysis by the Institute of Strategy and Policy (ISP-Myanmar), a Myanmar policy research organization, Chinese investments are facing increasing risks as conflicts against coup d’etat escalated across the country.

Among more than 7,800 clashes were recorded nationwide Since the February 2021 coup, at least 300 incidents have occurred in areas with major Chinese projects or near potential project sites for Chinese investment, according to data from ISP-Myanmar.

More than 100 clashes took place in 19 towns where China’s oil and natural gas pipeline projects are located, and at least dozens near the Chinese-run Letpadaung copper mine in the north. country.

There are also confrontations in the northern Shan state in 2021 and 2022. Shan State is home to key projects along what is known as the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor – a grassroots initiative. infrastructure involves industrial and infrastructure projects, including railways, highways and a remote area. -seaport, will connect China’s Yunnan with the Indian Ocean via Myanmar.

Military attacks against ethnic armed groups in the north of the country have also created instability on the China-Myanmar border since 2015, USIP’s Tower said.

Tower refers to the army’s recent failed offensive against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), a Chinese-speaking Kokang rebel group based on the border with southwestern China. .

The MNDAA controlled Kokang Autonomous Region and its capital, Laukkai, until 2009, when it was captured in an attack led by Min Aung Hlaing. The fighting has caused more than 30,000 civilians to flee to China. Taking advantage of the military’s current security troubles, the MNDAA seems intent on retaking Laukkai.

A researcher based in Myanmar until recently told Al Jazeera that the situation in the country is not good for Chinese investment nor for the people.

Due to the escalating security risks, China will find it difficult to make their planned investments, said the researcher, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

Local communities and civil society organizations are also concerned that Chinese projects will not be carried out responsibly under the military junta and may harm the environment and local people. . The Chinese investment project should only be paused and resumed “after the legitimate government is restored”, the researcher said.

Refusing to condemn Myanmar’s army

China, India, Russia and Thailand are among the few countries that have maintained official ties with Myanmar’s military since it came to power nearly two years ago.

They have refused to condemn or punish the generals since a coup d’état toppled the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and unleashed a bloodbath on civilians. An estimated 2,600 people have been killed and more than 16,500 imprisoned on political charges, according to the Association to Support Political Prisoners, a civil society group that monitors the situation in Myanmar.

Beijing and Moscow have also prevent the United Nations Security Council from stronger action against Myanmar.

When the United Nations Security Council last month passed its first resolution on Myanmar in 74 years – calling for an end to the violence and the release of all political prisoners – China, Russia and India dropped out. white vote. The remaining 12 members of the powerful council voted in favor.

In a report published in November, an international group of lawmakers said “steadfast and non-critical” support, especially from Beijing and Moscow, has helped Myanmar’s military sustain itself. and commit human rights violations.

Beijing’s indifferent attitude towards its generals means that Myanmar’s anti-coup forces do not see China as their enemy.

The National Unity Government (NUG), a parallel government formed by elected legislators and ousted following a military coup, opposes any attack on the investments of China. The NUG has also urged the country’s resistance forces, collectively known as the People’s Self-Defense Forces, to stay away from Chinese projects.

The pro-China stance of Myanmar’s pro-democracy politicians is not surprising.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government adheres to the “One China” policy and does not condemn China. suppressing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The NLD and NUG sent separate congratulatory letters to President Xi Jinping at the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress in Beijing last year, two sources told Al Jazeera. However, the Foreign Affairs Department of the Communist Party of China (CPCID) only acknowledged the letter of the NLD. This is because the NLD is a legal political party in Myanmar, but “the political and legal status of the NUG is at best undetermined for China,” said Yun Sun, China program director in China. Stimson Center, a Washington, DC-based consulting organization, told Al Jazeera.

Myanmar’s generals have also sought to openly align themselves with China.

The general’s proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), was critical of the then Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan last year, causing a diplomatic tumult between Washington and Beijing. Myanmar’s Foreign Minister also paid an official visit to China in March and April, inaugurating the Myanmar Consulate General in Chongqing and meeting then-Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Though downplayed as a diplomatic rebuke, China’s apparent omission of the LMC summit is likely to unnerve Myanmar’s generals, who may be wondering if there’s more to it. another thing comes from their powerful patrons and friends in Beijing or not.

As Louis Charbonneau of Human Rights Watch put it last month after Beijing and Moscow chose to abstain from voting against a UN Security Council resolution critical of the Myanmar military: “The China and Russia’s abstentions signal that even a few friends of the junta are no longer interested in committing to defending its crimes.”


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