Myanmar Activists Refused Yangon Embassy Protest During Xi Visit

By Zarni Mann 17 January 2020

Yangon – Amid the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Myanmar, the Yangon authorities have refused to allow a protest at the Chinese Embassy on Saturday.

“We were told that the Yangon regional government did not give permission to gather outside the embassy as it might harm bilateral relations,” said Ko Aung Soe, an event organizer.

They were hoping to urge Xi to terminate the Myitsone Dam project, to protect the environment and to have full transparency in investment and other projects. They also wanted to see benefits to residents from investment and projects, an end to illegal Chinese migration and more cultural understanding from Chinese tourists and business owners to avoid misunderstandings.

They planned to give a letter to Xi after the event.

“The Dagon police said we were not allowed to protest so we have changed the plan,” Ko Aung Soe added.

The activists instead plan to gather in front of City Hall on Saturday at 2 p.m. Only four organizers are allowed to walk to the embassy, approximately 4 km from City Hall, to hand over the letter.

“Kyauktada police told us they will not take responsibility if something happens to the four people walking to the Chinese Embassy. They mean they worry a lot of people will follow us,” said Ko Aung Soe.

Xi arrived in Naypyitaw on Friday and is scheduled to meet President U Win Myint, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

He is due to leave Myanmar on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Xi’s visit is seen as an effort to boost bilateral economic ties, focusing on infrastructure projects like the Belt and Road Initiative, the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone in Rakhine State and boosting border trade.

Many believe that resuming the long-stalled Myitsone Dam project is on the agenda for Xi’s visit.

Nearly 40 Myanmar civil society groups sent an open letter asking Xi to scrap the Myitsone dam project.

On his arrival, 14 civil society groups, including former political prisoners, Yangon Watch and People Affairs Networks sent an open letter to Xi, urging understanding for residents’ suffering, calling for an end to arms imports to all sides and to end the trafficking of women into forced marriage in China. The letter also asked Xi to stop Chinese traders from working illegally in Myanmar.

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