Myanmar coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has reassured Beijing that his regime will protect foreign-funded enterprises in the country, including Chinese investment, amid the political turmoil caused by his coup.
“We will protect all foreign-funded enterprises [in the country],” he told Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, adding that Myanmar citizens are not anti-China.
This is not the first time Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing has attempted to calm Beijing’s concerns about its economic interests, following growing anger towards China among Myanmar people due to Beijing’s perceived support for the military regime.
In his interview with the Chinese media, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said that attacks on China-backed factories are not a result of anti-China sentiment in Myanmar, saying instead that the political situation is to blame.
Anti-China feeling has soared in Myanmar following the coup after Beijing failed to condemn the military takeover. Some 13 or 14 Chinese-backed factories in Yangon have since been damaged or suffered arson attacks. Pro-democracy protesters have also called for people to oppose all Chinese projects and to boycott Chinese products in the country.
But China — the second largest investor in Myanmar – is one of the few countries willing to do business with the junta and invest heavily in the country, with international investors shunning the military regime due to western sanctions and ongoing human rights abuses.
Chinese media reported that Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said that China has invested more than US$20 billion dollars in 500 projects in Myanmar.
Last month, the coup leader visited the damaged Chinese-backed factories in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar Industrial Zone after the junta declared martial law in the area. During the visit the coup leaders attempted to show that normalcy has returned to the factory zone, even though thousands of workers have fled Hlaing Tharyar after deadly crackdowns on protests in the area, and handed out sacks of rice to be distributed to factory workers.
Chinese government mouthpiece the Global Times claimed that 32 factories built with Chinese investment had been vandalized, with around US$37 million in damage caused by the arson attacks.
Beijing has demanded that the regime’s security forces act to protect Chinese interests and citizens. However, Myanmar’s anti-coup protesters denied the allegations, saying the attacks were a plot by the military to justify harsher crackdowns.
During the interview with Phoenix Television., Snr- Gen Min Aung Hlaing said that he had visited the industrial zones where the Chinese factories were set on fire. He said that he had urged the Yangon regional authority to exercise its responsibility for protection of Chinese-funded projects in the country.
Myanmar’s economy is expected to contract by 10 percent this year in the aftermath of the coup. Moreover, major foreign investment projects worth billions of dollars are suspended, while many foreign investors are pulling their investment from existing projects.
Military spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun told the Chinese government-owned media Xinhua in early May that the regime was appealing to the Chinese government and investors to help Myanmar’s economic development and trade cooperation.
He said the junta would focus on maintaining stability in the country.
The regime reorganized three crucial committees in March as it pushes ahead with plans to implement giant infrastructure projects which are a part of China’s Ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
In early May the regime-controlled Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) also approved 15 projects, including a US$2.5 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project backed by China.
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