Myanmar Protesters Say an Attack on China’s Pipelines Would Be ‘Internal Affair’
By The Irrawaddy 8 March 2021
YANGON—Myanmar people have issued a sharp response on social media after Beijing voiced serious concern over the security of its ambitious twin pipelines project in the country, saying whether or not the pipelines are blown up is an “internal affair”.
As the military regime’s security forces intensified their deadly crackdown on anti-coup protesters in Myanmar in late February, Beijing held an emergency meeting with Myanmar officials from the Home Affairs and Foreign ministries, according to the leaked document.
The document revealed that Bai Tian, the director-general of the department of external security affairs under the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asked the military regime to assure the security of the oil and natural gas pipelines, following the emergence of anti-Chinese sentiment across the country due to its stand on the coup.
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.
Beijing is expecting Myanmar to impose better security measures for the pipelines project, saying it is a crucial part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Myanmar, according to the leaked document.
Any damage to the oil and gas pipeline would cause huge losses for both countries and also undermine confidence in foreign investment, Bai warned.
Developed by he state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) – which is the main shareholder in the pipelines project – the project has been controversial since 2013, provoking opposition among communities and environmental organizations. The agreement for the project was signed under the military regime in 2008. The company said 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.
The document revealed that the permanent secretary of Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry was not able to attend the meeting, as it received a notification just four hours ahead of time. It showed how China is desperately concerned about its project security.
The document also revealed that China hopes that the military regime will put pressure on the Myanmar media, to reduce its skepticism of China. Bai said the regime should rein in the media to only write about China in a positive way.
Additionally, the director-general said, “Criticism about the gas pipeline should not be allowed, as it is important for the socio-economic development of Myanmar. Relevant organizations should control fake news relating to project.”
China’s apparent pursuit of its own interests has strengthened Myanmar people’s opposition to Beijing’s interests in the country. In response to China’s failure to condemn the coup, more than 50,000 people on social media shared a status notice encouraging movements to boycott Chinese products in the country.
Moreover, nearly 1 million people shared on Facebook and Twitter in Burmese, Chinese and English a message saying that Beijing’s pursuit of its own interest showed that China officially consider the deaths and injuries of Myanmar people are a domestic matter, and that its own interests are paramount.
Social media users told China, “If you are still concerned that what’s currently happening in Myanmar is an internal affair, to blow up the natural gas pipeline that passes through Myanmar is also an internal affair. Let’s see what you say.”
They added, “We, the Myanmar people, have nothing more to lose. If a veto is used again at the UN meeting, the people of Myanmar will do the same to CHINA!” they said.
Moreover, thousands of Twitter users also warned Beijing, mentioning @MFA_China that “if you care about the safety of your gas pipeline, don’t cover the Myanmar junta with a veto. We Myanmar people are very united.”
Many Twitter users also wrote that if China continues to support the unofficial illegitimate junta, Myanmar-based Chinese businesses must be brought down soon, including the pipelines project. They said they would target mining projects and every business across the country for destruction.
Social media users said that if China continues to block strong UNSC action, there will be more and more anti-China activities in Myanmar, which will have serious consequences for the gas pipeline, the BRI and other Chinese projects in Myanmar.
Since the military takeover, China has repeatedly insisted that the armed forces’ seizure of power from the democratically-elected government is Myanmar’s internal affair, including at UNSC and Human Rights Council meetings. The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar has faced daily protests, demanding Beijing stop its support for the Myanmar military. Moreover, anti-Chinese sentiment has emerged among the people of Myanmar in the form of boycotts of Chinese products.
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