Northern ethnic armies are fighting government forces. Peace talks can reduce armed clashes. China wants a stable border to protect its investments. The success of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is based on access to the Indian Ocean through Myanmar.
Naypyidaw (AsiaNews) – China has for the first time hosted a meeting between Myanmar’s Peace Commission (PC) and the representatives of three armed groups from the Northern Alliance.
The Alliance includes four ethnic armies fighting the Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) in regions along the country’s northern border.
Unlike other groups, the four armies have not yet signed the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
Acting as mediator, Sun Guoxiang, special envoy for Asian affairs in China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, facilitated the brief meeting in Kunming.
The government was represented by PC vice chairman U Thein Zaw and secretary U Khin Zaw Oo, both former military generals.
They met with representatives of the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA, pictured), Arakan Army (AA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDDA).
Representatives of the fourth ethnic group, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), were also present as observers.
Delegates from the United Wa State Army (UWSA) also attended. The latter also belongs to the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FNPCC) set up in April 2017.
Myanmar is strategically important for China. The success of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) hinges on access to the Indian Ocean through Myanmar.
Beijing, which supported the holding of the third session of the 21st Century Panglong Conference in July, has said it firmly opposes any attempt to undermine peace and stability along its border with Myanmar or to deliberately obstruct the country’s peace process.
Some analysts however point to Beijing's ambiguous attitude towards ethnic conflicts in northern Myanmar. The Chinese government has been particularly close to the FNPCC, especially the UWSA, with some suggesting that it is a direct or indirect source of weapons for many rebel armies.
At the same time, major investments in gas and oil, hydropower, jade and other minerals have doubtless shaped China’s push back on international calls for accountability as details of the Myanmar military’s crimes have made headlines.
A report by Fortify Rights slams both China and Myanmar for preventing international humanitarian groups from operating in areas with displaced population. China has also been accused of turning back refugees.