POLITICS: With Pipelines, China’s Footprint in Burma Expands

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Sep 8 (IPS) – If military-ruled Burma needed a stark symbol of China’s growing dominance in the country, then it would be poised to get one soon. The Asian giant is about to start building two pipelines – for gas and oil – that will span the breadth of the South-east Asian nation.

Little wonder why the nearly 1,000-kilometre route of the two pipelines – which will begin on Burma’s western coast, facing the Andaman Sea, and then head into China’s Yunnan province, that borders north-eastern Burma – is already being described in ways that convey an unequal relationship between the two countries.

“It is being called a ‘Colonial Pipeline’. This is what the people inside Burma are saying about this project,” said Aung Zaw, editor of ‘The Irrawaddy’, a current affairs magazine and website published by Burmese journalists living in exile in Thailand. “The pipeline symbolises the relationship between the two countries.”

“People in Burma believe that the Chinese influence in the economy, in politics, and on the environment is growing,” Aung Zaw told IPS. “But I think both governments need each other. For Burma it is Chinese protection and investment; for China it is Burmese resources to be exploited.”

Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, has seen its relationship with China improve over the past two decades. It follows the 1989 collapse of the Communist Party of Burma, which had been backed by Beijing and had been a thorn in the side of the Burmese military since it captured power in a1962 coup.

Beijing’s investments in Burma, such as the planned pipelines, have been most prominent in the strong ties between the two countries. China was a major factor behind the spike in Burma’s foreign investment during the 2007-2008 period, estimated at over 980 million U.S. dollars, according to Burma’s ministry of national planning and development.

The bulk of China’s investments has focused on tapping Burma’s oil and gas reserves, in addition to investing in hydroelectricity projects. Burma is reported to have the 10th largest natural gas reserves in the world. Continue reading “POLITICS: With Pipelines, China’s Footprint in Burma Expands”

U Gaw Thita, an abbot belonging to the Leik Pyar Kan monastery, Nga Htat Gyi pagoda was arrested at the Rangoon airport on his way back from Taiwan.

Abbot returning from Taiwan arrested
by May Kyaw
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 21:31

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – U Gaw Thita, an abbot belonging to the Leik Pyar Kan monastery, Nga Htat Gyi pagoda was arrested at the Rangoon airport on his way back from Taiwan.

He was arrested by intelligence personnel and police on August 29.

“He is a native of Kungyangon. He’s over 30 years old and sojourns at the Leik Pyar Kan monastery. The abbot graduated from Dhama Siriya and is a teaching monk in the monastery,” a monk who is close to the abbot said.

There are 24 buildings in the Leik Pyar Kan monastery in Nga Htat Gyi pagoda, Bahan Township, Rangoon. It is learnt that the arrested abbot has been teaching about 30 student monks.

Other monks staying in the monastery do not know his current whereabouts. U Gaw Thita was taking part in reconstruction and rehabilitation work in Cyclone Nargis hit areas.

“He went to Taiwan legally. We heard he is in custody and have been unable to contact him. Inquiries are on about him,” a lay devotee close to the abbot said.

As the second anniversary of the 2007 September Saffron Revolution draws close, security has been beefed up in major pagodas and monasteries in Rangoon since the end of last month. Police personnel are deployed at Ward level Peace and Development Council offices at night.

According to the Thai-Burma border based ‘Association of Assistance to Political prisoners’ – Burma (AAPPB), the junta arrested 158 monks after the 2007 September Saffron Revolution and they were sentenced to various terms in prison with a maximum punishment of 65 years.

KIO Delegates Arrive In Myitkyina For Meeting With Junta

Delegates of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), one of the largest ethnic ceasefire groups in military-ruled Burma arrived in Myitkyina last night for a meeting with Burmese junta functionaries, said KIO sources. The meeting is slated for today but it was yet to start at the time of writing this report.

The eight-member KIO delegation led by Vice-president No. 1 Lt-Gen Gauri Zau Seng will meet Lt-Gen Ye Myint, the junta’s head of the Executive Committee of Transition and chief Naypyitaw negotiator for all ethnic ceasefire groups, according to KIO sources.
At the meeting, the KIO will reiterate its demand that it wants to convert its armed-wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to a self-controlled Kachin Regional Guard Force (KRGF) and direct participation of KIO people in the new Kachin State government following next year’s general elections, KIO officers in Laiza headquarters told KNG today.

The KIO’s demands were approved by Kachin civilian leaders in both KIO controlled areas and controlled areas of the junta in Kachin State and Northeast Shan State in the KIO-conducted emergent public meeting in Laiza headquarters on September 5. Continue reading “KIO Delegates Arrive In Myitkyina For Meeting With Junta”

Danger of border skirmishes escalating

Burmese military action against Chinese-backed ethnic armies could explode into wider conflict on its northern border

It has always been said that China is Burma’s closest ally. Given the fact that the junta doesn’t have many friends, one like China will always stand out. But the not-so-honorific label of “closest ally” should be understood in its proper context. For the Burmese, Chinese friendship doesn’t mean the world.

Nonetheless, such a friend could very well come in handy, especially when the international community and the United Nations are constantly looking to clobber the generals with sanctions and criticism.

For the Burmese regime, survival is everything. Where it positions its troops and weapons, and the type of legislation and reconciliation process that it proposes, reinforce the very idea that it is here to stay whether the world likes it or not.

For as long as anybody can remember, China has been a factor whenever a Burma policy and strategy is drafted by the international community. Over a decade ago, when Rangoon’s membership of Asean was on the table, members of the regional grouping whispered among themselves about the Chinese factor. Keeping the Burmese out of the regional loop would push the junta further into the arms of the Chinese, they said.

But for the Burmese, Asean membership was not seen as a privilege but a right – simply because the country happens to be in the same geographical region. There was no “thank you” to Asean for letting the country become a member.

A handful of Thai diplomats thought a free ride for Burma in Asean would deny the regional grouping the only card it had to play against the junta. Their concerns were largely ignored by most of the other Asean members, who really didn’t give a hoot about the atrocities committed by the junta, or the political baggage that comes with Burma’s membership. And when Asean came under an unwanted spotlight or was at loggerheads with the international community, such as the European Union, over Burma’s participation, all the Burmese generals could do was shrug their shoulders. They just couldn’t care less. Continue reading “Danger of border skirmishes escalating”