China Doesn’t Want Myanmar’s NLD Dissolved: Informed Sources

By The Irrawaddy 27 August 2021

China has voiced concern over the Myanmar military regime’s plan to dissolve the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party that won the junta-annulled 2020 general election in a landslide, several informed sources told The Irrawaddy. Chinese officials have conveyed to the regime’s leaders Beijing’s message that it wants to see the NLD continue to exist as a political party, they said.

Politicians close to the NLD and several China-Myanmar watchers said the Chinese recently told Myanmar officials that China will continue to support Myanmar and maintain border trade and infrastructure projects on one condition: that the junta keeps the NLD alive.

In early August, China’s ambassador to Myanmar, Chen Hai, and Wunna Maung Lwin, the regime’s foreign minister, held a virtual meeting. During the meeting, China pledged US$6 million to fund 21 development projects in the country.

A statement from the junta’s foreign ministry said the funds were to be transferred from China for projects within the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation framework. It said these included projects on animal vaccines, culture, agriculture, science, tourism and disaster prevention.

During the meeting, China started referring to the Myanmar junta as the country’s “government”.

National League for Democracy Central Executive Committee members (most of whom are now detained) meet with Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China, at the NLD’s headquarters in Yangon in September 2018. / NLD website

Myanmar’s military regime revoked the results of last year’s general election, in which the NLD led by now detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory, claiming the poll was “not free and fair” and “not in compliance with” the constitution and the law.

Many observers of the political situation in Myanmar fear the junta plans to dissolve the NLD in the future.

In July, the junta-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC) claimed it had found evidence that the NLD intentionally violated the law to ensure its landslide victory in November’s poll.

“What should we do with the NLD, which plotted against the law [to win the election]? The party must be abolished. And we must consider taking action against those who rigged the vote as traitors to the country,” UEC chairman U Thein Soe, a former major general in the Myanmar military, said at the time.

In response to the UEC chairman’s remark on the party’s possible dissolution, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said during a meeting with her lawyers that “the NLD will be there as long as the people are, because the party was founded for the people.”

Recently, a member of the NLD’s Central Committee told Radio Free Asia’s Myanmar Service that the regime had arrested a total of 324 NLD members—98 of whom are members of Parliament (MPs)—since its Feb. 1 coup d’état.

Among the detained are 15 members of the NLD’s Central Committee, as well as five regional and state chief ministers, the committee member said.

He warned that the regime is trying to completely remove the NLD from the political scene in Myanmar.

UN Special Envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener recently told reporters that the NLD could soon be disbanded.

Like many governments around the region, China forged a close relationship with the NLD government. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Myanmar in January 2020 and signed multibillion-dollar infrastructure deals. According to NLD sources, by that time, more than 100 NLD members including key players, elected MPs and youth wing members had visited China since 2016.

China is one of the top investors in Myanmar and has strategic infrastructure projects in the country, including energy pipelines and a proposed port that would give Beijing a critical link to the Indian Ocean. China also continues to provide political and military support to ethnic armed groups based along the Myanmar-China border.

Soon after the regime ousted Myanmar’s elected government in February, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency described the seizure of power by force of arms as a “cabinet reshuffle.” Since then, anti-China sentiment in Myanmar has hit fever pitch due to Beijing’s failure to condemn the military crackdown and the mounting perception that it has fully sided with the junta.

Myanmar has seen anti-China demonstrations, and factories owned and run by Chinese companies have been attacked. China’s image has been shattered and will be hard to repair in the eyes of Myanmar citizens, who deeply loathe the military junta.

Beijing has been accused of taking a soft approach toward the junta, but insists its priorities are stability and not interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbor.

It has pledged its support for ASEAN’s consensus on ending the crisis in Myanmar, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry encouraging “all parties in Myanmar to engage in political dialogue and restart the process of democratic transformation.”

Reached at a special summit in Jakarta on April 24, ASEAN’s “five-point consensus” on Myanmar includes calls for an immediate end to violence and political negotiations between the contending parties.

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