China Fails to Prevent Myanmar’s Ethnic Clashes

Despite being Myanmar’s “chief defender in international forums, its major weapons supplier, its largest foreign investor and a crucial backer of its ruling military junta,” China has been unable to influence decisions about the recent outbreak of violence in the Kokang region, which sent thousands of refugees fleeing for China, the New York Times reports:

Although it tried, analysts, journalists and other experts say, China was unable to dissuade Myanmar’s junta last month from sending thousands of troops into the nation’s northern Kokang region, where they easily routed about 1,500 armed rebels. The rebels had observed a cease-fire with Myanmar’s government for nearly 20 years.

Now news reports say that the junta has sent 7,000 troops and 20 tanks into a neighboring region known as Wa State, where a much larger rebel force, the United Wa State Army, has been observing the same cease-fire. The Wa forces, at least 20,000 strong and heavily armed, promise a fight if attacked.

[...] China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that Myanmar, long called Burma, had “promised to restore peace and stability along the border,” and some local news reports suggest that the confrontation in Wa State may yet be defused. But there are also signs that China and Myanmar, so close for two decades, are having differences.

September 4, 2009 10:34 AM
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