China supports ASEAN’s engagement with Myanmar Junta

By The Irrawaddy 6 June 2021

China supports the implementation of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) engagement with Myanmar and hopes for the restoration of peace and stability, said its ambassador to Myanmar during a meeting with the junta leader.

Ambassador Chen Hai met Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Saturday in Naypyitaw, before Sunday’s special China-ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting to commemorate 30 years of relations between Beijing and the regional bloc.

The meeting, which is co-chaired by Myanmar and China, is due to run until Tuesday in the Chinese city of Chongqing. The junta-appointed foreign minister U Wunna Maung Lwin reportedly attended Sunday’s meetings.

The Chinese embassy posted on Facebook that Chen stressed, as Myanmar’s neighbor, China “will continue to play a constructive role”. Its statement said: “China sincerely hopes for the earlier restoration of peace and stability in Myanmar and supports the implementation of consensus by ASEAN and Myanmar.”

A diplomatic source said the Chongqing meetings kicked off several days ago with SME (small- and medium-sized enterprises) and media forums. Myanmar attended both forums “in a low-profile way”, according to the source.

On Friday, Asean’s Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi from Brunei and Brunei’s foreign affairs minister Erywan Yusof met the senior general in Naypyitaw to discuss the special summit held in late April in Jakarta. The non-democratic, oil-rich state currently chairs ASEAN.

But Myanmar’s parallel civilian National Unity Government says it has lost faith in the regional bloc as it has failed to engage with both sides, ignoring the NUG’s approaches and only engaging with the junta.

Following the ASEAN summit on April 24, which was attended by Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, China proposed this month’s meeting in China with working-level talks on the crisis.

Chen has reportedly held several informal, secret meetings with junta leaders ahead of Saturday’s talks in Naypyitaw.

Military-control newspapers said on Sunday that meetings focused on “bilateral cooperation” and “stability” along the border, which extends over 2,000 kilometers, and the presence of numerous powerful ethnic minority armed groups along the frontier.

China’s state-controlled Global Times said Myanmar’s authorities are willing to maintain communications with China.

The newspaper posted on Facebook: “Myanmar is willing to work with ASEAN to maintain the domestic stability and coordinate implementation of relevant consensus, said Myanmar leader Min Aung Hlaing.”

The reference to “Myanmar leader” angered many social media users.

One user said the military chief is not the country’s leader and does not represent the people.

Another comment read: “We don’t believe in ASEAN. It is not working for Myanmar’s people but for the terrorist junta.”

Anti-regime protesters have been calling on the international community not to recognize the junta and its governing body, State Administrative Council.

However, China has not denounced the coup and prevented United Nations Security Council intervention while looking to influence ASEAN, according to observers.

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