China’s Point Man on Talks Between Myanmar Govt, Ethnic Armies Made Quiet Visit

By The Irrawaddy 1 September 2021

A Chinese special envoy who is the key player in Myanmar’s peace negotiations between the government and ethnic armed groups met the country’s regime leader and other officials during an unannounced visit last week.

Beijing said on Tuesday that Special Envoy for Asian Affairs Sun Guoxiang was in Myanmar from Aug. 21 to 28 at the invitation of the regime. He met with junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Minister for Foreign Affairs U Wunna Maung Lwin and Minister for the Union Government Office Lieutenant General Yar Pyae.

In an unusual move, the regime remains tightlipped about the visit. Normally, such a high-profile visit by a foreign dignitary is front page news in the junta’s dailies.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a press conference on Tuesday that the special envoy “exchanged views with [regime officials] on the political landscape in Myanmar and China-Myanmar cooperation in combating COVID-19.”

Myanmar has been in political turmoil since the military takeover in February when the country’s democratically elected National League for Democracy government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted. Since then, the regime has faced popular opposition, including armed resistance.

China has encouraged the regime to work with regional bloc ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, to stabilize the situation in the country.

“We will work together with the international community to play a constructive role in Myanmar’s efforts to restore social stability and resume democratic transformation at an early date,” said Wang Wenbin.

The special envoy’s visit last week came ahead of an expected visit by ASEAN’s representative. The bloc has appointed Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof, as special envoy to Myanmar and tasked him with ending the violence in the country and opening a dialogue between the regime and its opponents. It is hoped he will be in Myanmar this month.

During Sun’s meeting with junta officials, it is believed he also raised border security issues. Fighting between regime troops and ethnic armed groups in the northern and northeastern parts of the country near the Chinese border has intensified recently.

Sun’s visit coincided with fighting between junta troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

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