It is now two years of Tatmadaw in power; protestors are up in arms against Chinese on streets soon after Chinese minister of foreign affairs Qin Gang visited Myanmar on 3rd May just before coming to India for SCO council of foreign affairs. China has stepped up its engagement with Myanmar’s regime called Tatmadaw since the 2021 coup. This resulted in the death of over 3,500 protestors, 45 policeman and 7 soldiers. Over 18000 protestors are under detention as of now. Myanmar is burning every day. Courtesy- China and its geopolitical ambitions. Not a day passed when Myanmarese since coup not have protested in front of Chinese embassy in Yangon. Why and how China is meddling in affairs of a sovereign country.
Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 14 May 2023
To understand why Myanmar is burning. We have to go a little in history. To execute its geo- political ambitions which later world come to know as belt and road initiative, China planned Sino-Myanmar oil and natural gas pipelines linking Myanmar’s deep-water port of Kyaukphyu better known as Sittwe in the Bay of Bengal with Kunming in Yunnan province of China. In November 2008, China and Myanmar agreed to build a US$1.5 billion oil pipeline and US$1.04 billion natural gas pipeline.
In March 2009, China and Myanmar signed an agreement to build a natural gas pipeline, and in June 2009 an agreement to build a crude oil pipeline. The inauguration ceremony marking the start of construction was held on 31 October 2009 on Maday Island. The Myanmar section of the gas pipeline was completed on 12 June 2013 and gas started to flow to China on 21 October 2013. The oil pipeline was completed in August 2014.
There are many Chinese companies working along with other countries owned companies. But China-backed projects have long faced resistance; the Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy, for instance, has faced years of opposition. Local critics say Chinese investments in Myanmar are aimed at pursuing Beijing’s own geopolitical goals and they are literally robbing the myanmarese resources whether its copper mines, strategic metal mines or oil and gas. Locals workers get very less pay for hard work.
To come hard on dissent, China backed by Russia supported military coup in February 2021. Myanmarese accused China for providing training and weapons to the rebel Arakan Army in an effort to provide protection to its oil and gas pipelines that run from Kyaukphyu port through Mandalay and Namkham in Myanmar to Ruili in Yunnan, China. Most of the locals see the oil and gas pipelines as a symbol of exploitation when large parts of Myanmar do not have adequate energy.
Tatmadaw forces do not shy of opening fire on protestors. Tatmadaw allegedly acting at the behest of China with Russian backing led killing of over 3,500 protestors in last 2 years. Soon after the coup, 20 people were killed in Hlaingthaya township when government troops opened fire on protesters opposing overthrowing the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The killing spree since then continues. Military junta Tatmadaw extended a state of emergency and delaying new elections. T
A wave of anti-Chinese resentment has exploded in Myanmar since the coup, with protesters questioning why China and Russia have opposed sanctions against the Tatmadaw. Boycotts of Chinese goods have been gathering steam in recent weeks and demonstrators have massed outside the Chinese embassy, demanding Beijing condemn the coup.
Among the targets of the boycott are both imported Chinese fruit and mobile phones made by Huawei, which protesters claim has supported the Tatmadaw with its facial recognition technology. Tatmadaw is crushing protests by identifying protestors if they ever used mobile phone games developed by Chinese companies. Now thousands of users deleting ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang’, developed by Moonton, and PUBG MOBILE, by Tencent. Apps like TikTok are also being removed.
The junta Tatmadaw recently wrapped up a series of closed-court trials of Suu Kyi, jailing its long time enemy for a total of 33 years in a process rights groups have slammed as a sham. Continued support of China to Tatmadaw can be seen reflected in statement when Qin Gang said that China and Myanmar are “pauk-phaw” brothers connected by the same mountains and rivers.
Part of the statement released by China’s foreign ministry reads and I quote, “Qin Gang pointed out that China sincerely hopes for a stable situation and national development in Myanmar, supports Myanmar in exploring a development path suited to its national conditions and with Myanmar’s characteristics, supports Myanmar in continuously advancing its political transition process, and supports all parties in Myanmar to properly handle differences and achieve reconciliation under the constitutional and legal framework. China believes that the international community should respect Myanmar’s sovereignty and play a constructive role in helping Myanmar achieve peace and reconciliation. China will continue to provide assistance within its capability for Myanmar’s development, accelerate key cooperation projects of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, and carry out projects on agriculture, education and health care, among others, for the benefit of Myanmar people”.
Chinese belt and road and debt diplomacy is focussed on achieving its own goals irrespective of death of thousand protestors. A civilizational nation wage silent proxy wars against innocent citizens of a sovereign country in desperation to pursue its geo-politics.