09/06/2010, 00.00
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Than Shwe’s visit to China gets underway

The head of the Burmese junta will remain in China from 7 to 11 September and will meet President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. The leaders will discuss the problem of the ethnic rebel armies operating along the Burmese-Chinese border and the forthcoming general elections due in Myanmar on 7 November.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Than Shwe, the leader of the Burmese military junta’s four-day visit (7-11 September) to China begins tomorrow. The make up of the delegation accompanying the General, 77, who rarely leaves the country for trips of State, is still unknown. But it is not difficult to hazard a guess at the issues on talks agenda. The Chinese foreign ministry reports that Than Shwe will meet with both President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, that he will visit Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen in the southern province of Guangdong.

The recent "resignations" - perhaps to participate in the general election next November 7 – of some junta leaders had raised doubts about the future of the leader himself. Analysts like Aung Kyaw Zaw believe that, in addition to economic and trade talks, the visit aims to present the officers of the military government who replaced those who resigned to ally China.

The issue of ethnic armies that operate along the common border could also top the agenda during the meeting with the Chinese authorities. "China is former Burma’s the closest ally - Aung Kyaw Zaw says - so the junta has to keep them informed and introduce new officials to them. It is likely the new Joint Chief of Staff will be making another trip himself". The third most powerful man in the junta Shwe Mann, in fact, resigned from the post of Joint Chief of staff two weeks ago. According to the website Democratic Voice of Burma, he has been replaced by Min Aung Hlainh, previously head of special operations bureau.

Analysts are confident that the Burmese delegation will update the Chinese leaders also on the forthcoming general elections. The Electoral Commission has decided not to organize the vote in five of the towns and cities along the common border, and many of which are controlled by the 30 thousand men strong “United Wa State Army (Uwsa)”. In fact the vote, the first multiparty elections in over 20 years will be nothing but a farce: the Constitution, the Electoral Commission and regulations for political parties and candidates are specifically designed to ensure power remains in the hands of the military, by gaining a majority in Parliament. There are over 40 competing parties, but the National League for Democracy of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has boycotted the vote.

Chinese investments in Myanmar have considerably grown in recent years. Today China is the third largest trading partner of the former Burma, after Thailand and Singapore. In January 2010, China invested 1.8 billion dollars in Myanmar.

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