Myanmar’s Chief of Armed Forces General Min Aung Hlaing triggered a controversy by saying in an interview that the terrorist organisations active in his country were backed by ‘strong forces’. In the interview, Hlaing didn’t name any country, although some reports suggest that he was hinting at China for arming the Arakan army in Rakhine state.
The statement was cleverly worded, even though Myanmar had raised the issue bilaterally with China, saying that Chinese weaponry was circulating among various insurgent ethnic groups in Myanmar. Reports indicated that Chinese weaponry reached Myanmar through neighbouring countries like Laos. China is also the only qualitative arms supply lifeline for the Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw.
The Sino-Myanmar boundary stretches for 1,358 miles. Historically, China is sensitive to any other country playing any kind of facilitatory role, particularly in the ongoing peace process in the north, a territory that adjoins China. On the other hand, China wields direct as well as indirect influence with various stakeholders in Myanmar. China and its provinces adjoining Myanmar, such as Yunnan, have parallel linkages with multiple stakeholders in Myanmar, including the leadership of ethnic minorities.
Since coming of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party to power, China has been rapidly signing contracts after contracts with the Civilian government, in lieu of keeping in control the radical Islamic and Communist terrorist factions.
Aung San Suu Kyi had been hapless spectator to this blatant take over of the narrative by China. Things were about to get worse?
Myanmar Army Tatmadaw Fought Communist Party of China (CCP) in the 80s
In the 80s it is only with marginal estimates that the strength of communist guerrillas supported by CCP, operated along the 1,300 mile Sino Burmese border had doubled since the late 70s.
The rebels were reported to have fled back and forth into China for sanctuary. CCP’s Chinese advisers have been operating with Burmese communists inside Burma, since 1968.
The rebels had better weapons since the 70s, including heavy mortars, recoilless rifles, and a variety of land mines all courtesy to Chinese handlers of CCP. This had contradicted all claims, that China had stopped supplying money and food to Burmese communists in 1978.
In those times, CCP and China used to declare openly, that they have a right to conduct limited “party to party” relations with such rebels (as is presently in case of India). Southeast Asian countries felt that as a semantic cover for Chinese intervention in Southeast Asian affairs.
Burmese Army then felt threatened, as they could see in front of their eyes the horrendous existence of the CCP Chinese-backed Pol Pot shadow guerrilla government in Cambodia. Myanmar Army didn’t want their nation to go that way.
CCP Chinese Meddling Still Holds True
Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has called for international cooperation in fighting and claimed that terrorist groups exist because of the “strong forces that support them”. While he did not name forces but observers indicated that he referred to Chinese support for terrorist groups in Myanmar.
Myanmar Armed forces head had made these revelations last year, while he was in Russia to attend the 75th anniversary of their Victory Day. Myanmar armed forces maintain close links with Russian armed forces and purchases equipment from Russia.
During the visit, Gen Min Aung Hlaing also had held talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on how to promote ties between their countries’ armed forces, border security, and counter-insurgency operations along the border, with specific reference to Pakistan and china supported Radical Islamic and Communist terrorists.
Complicit is evident as the two terrorist groups the military chief was referring to: the Arakan Army (AA) and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), wherein they did not disrupt any Chinese development projects in Myanmar, however always disrupted the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project with India, across the Mizora-Mayanmar border.
In addition, the communist terrorist organization, United Wa State Army (UWSA), the largest EAO in Myanmar is an alliance of 30,000 troops along the China border. Intelligence reports indicate that it also has a dedicated China built weapons manufacturing facility in its area of control.
The group is the leader of the FNPCC (Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee), comprising the EAOs in Myanmar established to barter with the Myanmar Army.
UWSA is alleged to be the largest drug-producing organisation in entire Southeast Asia and has considerable narco-eco-trade links with Chinese economic conglomerates, according to an intelligence report.
China Playing Up a Hapless Aang San Suu Kyi
Till 2015, Mayanmar Army had resisted the Chinese CCP’s efforts to nullify Mayanmar’s sovereignty. In 2011 the cancellation of Chinese-backed Myitsone dam, Kunming-Kyaukpyu Railway (abandoned in 2014), and other projects, had left CCP red-faced. However, relations suddenly went into an unnatural upswing, when Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s party the National League for Democracy (NLD) came to power in early 2016.
Multiples of memorandum of understandings (MoUs) in the garb of so-called “ Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative” were signed in May 2017 when Aung San Suu Kyi attended the first Chinese BRF. Five months later, the CMEC was imposed on Mayanmar and an agreement was signed in September 2018 to connect China’s Kunming to Mandalay and then extending east and west respectively to Yangon and Kyaukpyu.
In March 2018, another MoU was signed to conduct feasibility studies for the construction of the Mandalay-Tigyaing-Muse expressway project and Kyaukpyu-Naypyidaw highway project.
In July 2018, Aung San Suu Kyi approved three economic cooperation zones along the Myanmar China border: one is Kachin State and second in Shan State, though just like Thailand, the terms favoured only Chinese companies and business, with little for development of Mayanmar’s business bulk.
Jut in Jan 2021, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi was at Aang San Suu Kyi’s doorsteps, to aggressively pitch for favourable pitch for its projects, in lieu of communist area’s support given to her party in recent elections of 2020. Time to reap the fruits.
Already Myanmar is heavily indebted to Beijing; around 40 percent of its total foreign debt of $10 billion is owed to China. Myanmar Armed forces are keen to avoid going Sri Lanka’s way i.e. it would like to avoid falling into a Chinese ‘debt trap.’
The $10 billion Kyaukphyu project, includes a port that costs $7.3 billion and a special economic zone pegged at $2.7 billion. The port cannot benefit Myanmar and there are ample doubts over the economic viability of the SEZ at Kyaukphyu as it is poorly connected to other commercial centers in Myanmar.
Port is simply another Hambantota port in Mayanmar, a Chinese Navy’s peak into the Indian Ocean. And the dismissed government was an easy pawn in hands of the Chinese CCP.
Covert support by Myanmar Communists in 2020 Elections
China’s CCP Ensured It
When Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD won in the 1990 elections, the then Chinese ambassador was among the first to send her a letter of congratulations. The military government, which rejected the results of the election, allegedly did not take kindly to China’s initiative toward the NLD. This incident affected bilateral ties, leading China to recall its ambassador from Yangon from mid-1990 until July 1991. To avoid a similar situation during the 2010 elections, China left the ambassador position open from September to late December.
During the twenty years of military rule in Myanmar, Beijing minimized contact with Suu Kyi and the NLD out of consideration for the military government’s sensitivity.
Since 2011, three consecutive Chinese ambassadors (Li Junhua, Yang Houlan, and Hong Liang) have met regularly with Aung San Suu Kyi, and Chinese officials, scholars, journalists, and businesses have frequented NLD headquarters in Yangon.
Chinese authorities invited several NLD delegations to China, on a Party to Party basis, to build relations and to express its desire to maintain a friendly relationship with Myanmar. All shrouded in mystery, however, suggests complicity in the elections, by Chinese Communists ensuring Mayanmar Communists support NLD in 2020 concluded election win for Aang San Suu Kyi.
It is evidently suspicious, why in bilateral and other public occasions, she has openly committed herself and the NLD to a friendly policy toward China, vowing to build a good relationship.
The investigation committee for the Letpadaung copper mine project, which she chaired, approved the continuation of the joint venture despite opposition from local residents and Myanmar society in general. Hence Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s opposition to her actions and support to locals has been hailed since.
On issues that China prioritizes, such as ethnic conflict on the border and China’s commercial projects across Myanmar, her position (or rather the lack of a position) has made her the “choice-chosen one” Myanmar politician for China.
It is contrary to interests of Mayanmar.
Sadly, for all her good intentions, Aung San Suu Kyi has been a pawn in hands of Chinese divisive tactics, and has been committing irreplaceable damage to the sovereignty of Mayanmar, much to the chagrin of Armed forces of Mayanmar, who have fought the CCP supported Mayanmar Communists insurgents.
Myanmar government under Aung San Suu Kyi had been pursuing a delicate diplomatic balancing act, of securing China’s support to take forward the ethnic peace process. In return of this blackmail, Myanmar is forced to be part of Chinese BRI projects that it sees are mutually beneficial, but non-binding. Most of the deals reached in the past couple of years are MoUs that have no legal force, and renegotiations of the same in last two years, driven by Gen Min Aung Hlaing to ensure Mayanmar’s advantage, without relinquishing their sovereignty, imply that.
The manner of hard-driven re-negotiation of the port deal, Myanmar had sought and received help from the US, India, and other countries. A team of American-Indian experts helped Myanmar push through “a better deal” in favor of Mayanmar, and not China.
Vaccine diplomacy was high on the agenda of China, during a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Myanmar in early January 2021, albiet Gen Min Aung Hlaing ensuring that the first order of 30 million doses come from India.
Last year, Myanmar under directions from Gen Min Aung Hlaing, buoyed by support from India, aggressively renegotiated the BRI deal with China, including agreements reached over CMEC, with renegotiated contracts including concessions that the Dragon was forced to concede.
However with Aang an Suu Kyi’s party the NLD, and the recent election’s covert support given by Chinese Communists to her party, since they take her as “the easy target”, has threatened to undo all the hard work been done in favor of Mayanmar.
However, Gen Min Aung Hlaing, stands tall, to defeat the Communist designs, even by courting international criticism, for sake of his nation and Mayanmar Sovereignty and their indomitable peaceable spirit towards development and progress.
Chinese CCP would love to break up Mayanmar, so as to get a free run to the Indian Ocean, at the expense of sovereignty of Mayanmar, just like it has done in Pakistan, and Aung San Suu Kyi was making it quite too easy for them.
It is understandable why China has been avoiding to answer questions over rumors, that the coup was a setback to Beijing, especially CMEC project, which provides access to China to the Indian Ocean, the only reason China is interested in Mayanmar, and leaving no stones unturned, to destabilize Mayanmar.
03 Feb 21/ Wednesday Written by: Fayaz