Yangon: Beijing supplies rebel militias with anti-Covid vaccines

China had also sent 13 million vaccines to the military junta. Given the inefficiency of the military, in order to prevent contagions from spreading to Chinese territory, Beijing is directly helping the ethnic armed formations that control the borders. 

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China is trying to strengthen its influence in Myanmar by sending vaccines to the military junta and anti-coup rebel troops. So far, the military of the Tatmadaw, the Burmese army that in February with a coup d'état put an end to the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi, have received 13 million doses from Beijing.

Seeing that the army is not able to control the spread of infection, China has decided to intervene to prevent new cases from spreading to Chinese territory across the border between the two countries, which runs for about 2,000 km. Beijing has sent thousands of vaccines, healthcare personnel and material to build quarantine centers even for militias fighting the military government.

The Chinese Red Cross "occasionally comes to help us prevent the pandemic from Covid-19," said Colonel Naw Bu, spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army (Kia). "But they didn't stop there," added the colonel, whose group controls the jade-rich hills in the north of the country.

The Kia is one of more than 20 ethnic groups in Myanmar that oppose the junta. Most of them control remote border areas. Since the start of the third wave in July, the Kia have administered about 10,000 doses of Chinese vaccines, Naw Bu explained.

At the same time, in the town of Muse, on the China-Myanmar border, a 1,000-bed quarantine center is being built to house those from Myanmar who want to return to do business with China. The beneficiaries will all be Burmese citizens, but the materials for the construction of the center have been provided by the authorities of China's Yunnan province.

According to analysts, China wants to prevent the Burmese population from pouring into its territory due to the clashes as was the case in 2017. Beijing "needs to create a buffer zone," explained Enze Han, a professor at the University of Hong Kong.

Although China is the military junta's main ally (Beijing has never spoken of a coup referring to the Tatmadaw's action), the population's distrust of wanting to care for itself in the territories controlled by the soldiers has pushed the Dragon to insert itself in the spaces where the Burmese military is not in control. "The military government definitely doesn't like it," Han commented. "But they have no other choice."