China's Xi makes a 'historic' visit to Myanmar

17 Janvier, 2020, 14:07 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Myanmar slashed the cost of a port project at Kyaukphyu from $7.2 billion to $1.3 billion to avoid a debt trap

Xi was scheduled to meet state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and army chief Min Aung Hlaing in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, as well as the heads of minor political parties.

Talking to reporters last week, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui said the two sides were in contact over the dam, and any co-operation would be "in line with the long-term plan of the Myanmar side".

More than 730,000 Rohingya were forced to flee western Myanmar after a military crackdown the United Nations has said was executed with "genocidal intent", though the government maintains it was a legitimate counter-insurgency operation launched in response to militant attacks on security forces.

The reaction to its brutal counterinsurgency campaign that drove more than 700,000 members of the country's Muslim Rohingya minority to flee for safety in neighboring Bangladesh threatens it with economic sanctions from Western nations.

Suu Kyi, once championed in the West for her decades-long fight for democracy for Myanmar, said Myanmar did investigate and prosecute soldiers and officers accused of crimes.

China serves as a no-questions-asked ally to Myanmar, giving it diplomatic cover as the country faces widespread condemnation over its human rights record.

Gambia's action marks the first time a country without any direct link to the alleged atrocities has used its membership in the Genocide Convention to bring a case before the court. China is the second biggest investor in Myanmar, after Singapore. She said that under those circumstances, the court should not intervene. The court holds another hearing next week.

Much as Xi might harbour aspirations of rescuing his troubled neighbour, China's involvement in Myanmar looks at this stage more likely to thwart than to boost Suu Kyi's grand but fruitless plans for a national peace accord. Under the CMEC, China has reportedly proposed 38 projects, but so far only cooperation zones on the borders of Kachin and Shan states, the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone, and a railway from the Shan border town of Muse to Mandalay have been approved. "I think it is not a coincidence".

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Beijing in recent years has waged a strong battle with Washington for influence in Southeast Asia.

"No other country is investing in Myanmar except China", said Hla Kyaw Zaw, a political analyst based in Yunnan province on the Myanmar-China border.

While China has promoted peace talks between the the rebels and Myanmar's government, its close ties with some of the rebel groups allows it to retain the option of threatening violence by using ethnic guerrillas as proxies. In 2011, former president Thein Sein called a stop to the controversial $3.5 billion Myitsone dam project, which would have been Myanmar's largest, only a few kilometres south of the confluence of the two rivers that form the Irrawaddy, Myanmar's main waterway, which snakes through the middle of the country.

Activists are expected to protest tomorrow against any reinstatement of the project at the Chinese embassy in Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon.

China has dozens of major projects in Myanmar, largely in energy, with 18 hydropower projects, and oil and gas reserves in the Bay of Bengal. Similar problems are becoming apparent in many other parts of the country, with a particularly stark example emerging in Kayin state, where a Chinese company is building a $15 billion real estate mega-project, aimed at becoming a tourist mecca along the Thaungyin River, which has been dubbed Shwe Kokko - "Chinatown" - by locals.

"With major economic and infrastructure agreements expected to be signed during President Xi's visit, the absolute lack of transparency over such agreements is deeply disturbing", the human rights group said in a statement Thursday.

"But these benefits are not delivered if those who bear the heaviest cost - the women, men, and children whose homes, health, livelihoods are be affected - are not adequately consulted before construction starts and protected from potential harm".

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