China has reportedly requested a meeting with Myanmar over growing concerns about the security of its oil and natural gas twin pipelines project after ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State warned the military regime they would resume hostilities if its brutal killing of anti-coup protesters continued.
Multiple sources in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar, confirmed to The Irrawaddy that Chinese officials are continuing to pressure the military regime to reinforce security measures for the twin pipelines, particularly in northern Shan State, where clashes with ethnic armed groups would be most likely to occur.
The project spans nearly 800 kilometers, comprising twin pipelines running in parallel from the port of Kyaukphyu in Rakhine State on the Bay of Bengal through Magwe and Mandalay regions and northern Shan State before entering China. The crude oil pipeline is designed to transport 22 million tons annually, while the natural gas pipeline is designed to carry 12 billion cubic meters of gas.
A recent warning from three ethnic armed groups that they are considering a resumption of fighting and joining forces with anti-coup protesters is seen as putting Beijing’s interests at risk, including the pipelines. Anti-Chinese sentiment has grown in Myanmar since the coup, with many people suspecting Beijing of supporting the military. China has repeatedly blocked efforts at the UN Security Council to take action against the Myanmar coup leaders. Anti-coup protesters have not only urged a boycott of all China-made products, but also called for the targeting of Chinese investment projects.
Among the vast number of China-backed projects, the oil-and-gas pipelines project has been in the spotlight, as it is the largest in the country and has been a source of controversy since 2013, provoking opposition among the affected communities and environmental organizations.
When the military regime’s forces intensified their deadly crackdown on anti-coup protesters in late February, Chinese officials held an emergency meeting with Myanmar officials from the Home Affairs and Foreign ministries.
During the meeting, China asked the military regime to tighten security measures for the pipelines, saying the project is a crucial part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Myanmar, according to a leaked document.
It also warned that any damage to the pipelines would cause huge losses for both countries and undermine confidence among foreign investors.
In March, Chinese mouthpiece Global Times claimed Myanmar protesters were responsible for attacks that damaged 32 China-backed factories in Yangon’s Hlaingtharyar Industrial Zone. Protesters denied the allegations, however, saying the attacks were a plot by the military to justify harsher crackdowns on protesters.
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