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Diplomatic - February 14, 2024

Myanmar military rule benefits only China

Enayet Karim : When a country is united and strong, no one can use and control the country to their advantage. But if it becomes weak and divided like Myanmar, the country will be exploited. China’s actions in Myanmar since the coup clearly illustrate how superpowers exploit the political crises of smaller countries to further their own interests.
In recent months, China has intervened in northern Myanmar to consolidate and strengthen its geopolitical position, where the two countries share a border of more than 2,000 kilometers. There is no doubt that Myanmar’s economy has been weakened by Western sanctions since the coup. In this reality China has now become an important source of economic and political support for Myanmar. But as the military junta hesitated to respond to Beijing’s calls to crack down on cross-border crime and online fraud syndicates in both countries, China decided to take planned action.
Beijing tacitly agreed to conduct Operation 1027 for ethnic armed groups in the northern Shan province to find ‘scapegoats’, as the border area is a haven for online fraud and other crimes. The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Arakan Army and the Tang National Liberation Army jointly formed the Brotherhood Alliance. At the end of October, they all launched a concerted attack against the junta forces in the northern Shan province. The campaign was a great success with the help of skilled observers. The Brotherhood took over Lukkai, the capital of Kokang, after just two months of fighting the military junta and their armed allies. As a result, China was able to form alliances with armed ethnic groups in the north to disguise online fraudsters and criminal activities from the Myanmar side. After losing large areas of Shan province to the coalition, the military government asked Beijing to intervene on its behalf in December. Junta chief Acting President Myint Sue said such attacks could “tear the country apart” if allowed to continue.
After the MNDAA recaptured the city of Lukkai, China intervened strongly to stop the group’s successful offensive. As war broke out in Rakhine state in December, the Chinese and Myanmar governments signed an agreement on additional concessions for a China-backed deep sea port project in Kyukphu township.
As this relationship deepens, Myanmar’s government becomes increasingly dependent on China for investment and military equipment, not just for political support at the United Nations. Recently, the military government handed over six online fraudsters to the Chinese government in the Kokang region of Shan province and the Chinese border. The Myanmar government was widely suspected of harboring crime syndicates.
China maintains several geographical and economic interests in Myanmar. These include infrastructure projects, gas pipelines that link Yunnan Province, and the province’s access to the Indian Ocean on trade and transit routes. Beijing will invest more in the northern part of Shan Province, as the ‘provinces’ become more autonomous under Chinese influence.
The National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), also known as the Wa, Kokang and Mongla groups, is heavily dependent on China for internet services, currency, various supplies and transportation. Meanwhile, the Wa region is essentially a self-contained autonomous buffer state between Myanmar and China, with its own administration, schools, hospitals, courts and commercial companies. It is like a small province of China, although the Myanmar national flag flies in the Wa region. This is just the beginning.
The Myanmar government and the country’s armed ethnic groups know that China will always act in its own interests. So, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand will follow suit. But Myanmar has become more vulnerable than its Southeast Asian neighbors due to complications and devastating civil wars. Since the military coup, the word ‘victory’ has been used in only one case; That is, Myanmar’s powerful neighbor to the north.

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