News You Really Need To See: “Myanmar’s Fight With Rebels Creates Refugees and Ill Will With China”

“Myanmar’s Fight With Rebels Creates Refugees and Ill Will With China”

The New York Times, March 22, 2015, p.A9

“In the last six weeks, the Myanmar Army has been fighting rebels of the Kokang, a Chinese ethnic group that has lived in the mountains of northern Myanmar for more than 400 years, and keeps strong linguistic, education and trading ties to China.  Myanmar has been afflicted with fighting between its various ethnic groups and the army for decades, but the current battle, fueled by rebels armed with weapons bought with the proceeds of a flourishing drug trade, is potentially more serious because it touches on the country’s sensitive relationship with China.  Lt. Gen. Mya Tun Oo, the head of Myanmar’s military intelligence, said last month that ‘well-trained Chinese soldiers’ were fighting alongside the Kokang guerrillas, known as the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army, who are led by an octogenarian, Peng Jiasheng. … [H]is statement infuriated China, which strongly denied the charge and demanded that senior Myanmar officials come to Beijing for talks.  Also of concern to China is the Myanmar military’s tactic of stoking widespread anti-Chinese sentiment in Myanmar.  China, the biggest foreign investor in Myanmar, has major oil and gas interests there, and is trying to consolidate its economic position amid intense rivalry with the United States.  During the rule of the junta, China was an unflinching supporter of the military, and the resentment, now based on China’s power and wealth, still permeates society. … The nationalist appeal by the Myanmar military has a specific political purpose.  It appears intended to gain support from the population before important national elections at the end of 2015, when the dominant political party aligned with the military will go head-to-head with the opposition party led by the democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Quickie analysis:  Political theatre in Myanmar, yes, but rather risky–the Chinese government is rarely amused by this sort of thing.

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