Ambassador Tries to Calm Anti-China Feeling in Myanmar Following Coup
By The Irrawaddy 17 February 2021
YANGON—China’s ambassador to Myanmar said the current situation in the country is “absolutely not what China wants to see,” amid growing anger toward Beijing among Myanmar people due to its perceived support for the military regime.
During a meeting with media representatives on Monday, Ambassador Chen Hai said Beijing was not informed in advance of the military takeover, adding that China hoped all parties in Myanmar “could handle the current problem through dialogue and consultation properly and lead the country back on track as soon as possible.”
Beijing wants things to go well in its southern neighbor, rather than to see it become unstable or even fall into chaos, Chen said.
“Both the National League for Democracy and the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] maintain friendly relations with China,” the ambassador said.
China has long been the Myanmar military’s closest ally. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met current coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing while visiting Naypyitaw just 20 days before the Myanmar military staged the coup and detained democratically elected leaders Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint. During their meeting, the senior general shared with Wang the Tatmadaw’s “findings” on it claims of electoral fraud.
On Feb. 1, just hours before the new Parliament was due to convene in Naypyitaw, the military seized power and declared a one-year state of emergency in the country. It claimed it was forced to act due to alleged electoral fraud in November’s election and the failure of the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led government to address the issue.
China has described the Myanmar military’s takeover—internationally condemned as a coup—as a “major cabinet reshuffle”, and along with Russia blocked a recent effort by the UN Security Council (UNSC) to condemn the coup. Beijing and Moscow continued their defense of the military regime at a recent special session of the UN Human Rights Council, insisting that the seizure of power from the democratically elected government was an internal affair.
The ambassador, however, pointed to Beijing’s endorsement of a recent UNSC statement expressing “deep concern” about the state of emergency declaration and the detention of national civilian leaders and others.
Chen said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi maintains good relations with China, and is committed to constructing the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC)—a part of Beijing’s vast international infrastructure development scheme, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—and implementing practical cooperation in other areas.
“We keep an eye on the situation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and others,” the Chinese ambassador said.
China has faced strong condemnation from Myanmar people following its failure to condemn the coup makers. Amid ongoing nationwide mass anti-coup protests, thousands of protesters have gathered daily in front of the Chinese Embassy in Yangon, demanding that China refuse to support the military regime. Youth across the country have also launched campaigns to boycott Chinese products and called on Myanmar employees of large Chinese projects to participate in the civil disobedience movement, to show their opposition to the military regime.
Responding to accusations that China is sending technicians to help the military build an internet firewall, Chen said that “these are completely nonsense and even ridiculous accusations.”
Chinese aircraft arriving in Yangon are making routine cargo flights carrying seafood and other export goods, he said, referring to rumors on social media that China has been flying in IT experts tasked with building the firewall for the military regime.
On Wednesday, a military spokesperson also rejected the accusation that it was accepting help from China, claiming the military has enough experts of its own should it decide to build an internet firewall.
The public remains suspicious, however, as three more flights from China’s Kunming landed at Yangon International Airport on Sunday amid the regime’s suspension of internet access from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. Chen also dismissed as “totally inconsistent and malicious” accusations by thousands of social media users that China was secretly sending weapons to the military regime to oppress anti-coup protesters
“We oppose any attempts [to make] use of Myanmar’s domestic affairs to undermine friendly cooperation between China and Myanmar, for this will ultimately harm Myanmar’s own interests,” the ambassador warned.
Hundreds of people have also staged daily demonstrations in front of the Russian Embassy to condemn its stance and demand that Moscow not support the military regime.
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