CHINA: Burma’s Surprise Attack Against Ethnic Rebels Poses Dilemma

Analysis by Antoaneta Bezlova

Beijing, Sep 4 (IPS) – Preoccupied with ethnic tensions in the vulnerable areas of Tibet and Xinjiang, Beijing was caught off guard by Burmese military regime’s decision in late August to use force against armed rebel ethnic groups in the country’s north, which resulted into military strife that forced thousands of refugees to flee into China.

While the armed conflict has calmed down, Beijing now faces the possibility of having to cope with two intransigent neighbors on its doorsteps – North Korea in the north and Burma in the southwest.

For many years, Beijing has supplied Burma’s military junta with all means for political survival — security guarantees at the United Nations, arms, investment and trade links, as well as development assistance. In exchange, it has been given access to Burma’s considerable mineral wealth and allowed to become heavily involved in the country’s economic development. Chinese companies now operate across the board in industries from mining and timber to power generation.

So when Burmese generals decided to ignore China’s wishes and launch a surprise offensive to crush the Kokang ethnic rebel group in the border area, it was perceived here as a breach of trust. Chinese diplomats have been involved in quiet negotiations with Naypyidaw, Burma’s administrative capital, urging Burmese junta to resolve the ethnic issue in a peaceful way. The Kokang are ethnically Chinese and speak a Mandarin dialect but have lived for many decades inside Burma.

After the fighting broke, the Chinese foreign ministry issued a muted rebuke of the regime, saying that “both sides were responsible for maintaining stability along the border.” Beijing quickly imposed a blackout on news about the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing across the border, fearing it may be seen as having failed to help them. Along with Burmese-born Chinese refugees, there are hundreds of Chinese businessmen involved in gems, timber and other industries.

“It looks like the junta is becoming a bit uncomfortable at being in Beijing’s pocket, and is trying to rebalance its global ties,” says Ian Holliday, a Burma expert at the University of Hong Kong. “The generals are extremely nationalistic and would prefer to listen to no one. But they have no choice but to take some account of what China wants.” Continue reading “CHINA: Burma’s Surprise Attack Against Ethnic Rebels Poses Dilemma”

Wa leader chooses understudy

As the prospect of war with the Burma Army looms, the ailing Wa supreme leader Bao Youxiang has recently chosen Zhao Zhongdang, known for his proven fighting abilities, to look after the day to day political and military affairs of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), according to sources from the Wa capital Panghsang on the Sino-Burma border.
Sources did not say when his new appointment was given.

His official position in the Wa hierarchy is second Deputy Commander in Chief. The first deputy is Ta Ai Lone.

Zhao’s latest assignment also means he will also take precedence over Deputy Chairman Xiao Minliang and Zhao Wenguang in political matters. “Of course, whatever he wants to do, he will still need to consult with Bao and obtain his consent first,” said a source close to the Wa leadership.

Prior to the ceasefire in 1989, he was commander of the 418th Division operating in southern Shan State. “He made a lot of trouble for Col Hsang Mon (one of Khun Sa’s commanders operating in the same area) with his swift tactics (swift attack, swift withdrawal, swift concentration, swift dispersal),” remembers Sao Yawdserk, leader of the Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’. “The UWSA I think, will be decisive under him.” Continue reading “Wa leader chooses understudy”