Myanmar Shadow Government Distrustful of Chinese-ASEAN Approach to Crisis

Myanmar’s shadow government rejected Chinese support for ASEAN on resolving political turmoil in the wake of the Feb. 1 coup, saying the neighbors' plan would cement military control of the country.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi voiced support for the stance on Myanmar of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations during a special meeting with the regional bloc’s foreign ministers in Chongqing Monday.

“We support joint efforts to explore effective means to ease the situation and resolve issues within the ASEAN framework,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin told a press conference after Monday’s meeting.

“China will maintain close communication with ASEAN and support its mediation efforts, while reaching out to all parties in Myanmar in its own way, so as to secure an early ‘soft landing’ for the situation in Myanmar.”

ASEAN member-states, which include Myanmar, reached a five-point consensus at a special summit in Jakarta in late April. Coup leader Maj. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing attended the meeting and endorsed the consensus, which included the appointment of a special envoy from the regional bloc to Myanmar, and a call for an immediate end to the violence.

But Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), made of lawmakers ousted by the military in February, told RFA’s Myanmar Service Wednesday that merely restores the pre-coup status quo.

“There is a big difference between what ASEAN and China say about political context and what we want to bring about,” said the NUG’s Foreign Minister Zin Mar Aung.

“What ASEAN and China want is to go back under the 2008 constitution, and they seem to be calling for a return to the situation before Feb. 1. But the 2008 Constitution is gone,” she told RFA.

“If we go back to 2008, the military will have supremacy and that would not bring about real democracy. There can be no real federal democracy under those terms,” added the minister.

The 2008 constitution reserves one fourth of the seats in both houses of Myanmar’s national assembly for the military, which has the right to take control in times of national emergency if declared by the president. The military used the latter clause to carry out the coup, citing unsupported election fraud claims.

Wang, at the special meeting spoke of cooperating with all concerned parties, but China’s ambassador to Myanmar last week visited Naypyidaw and met only with the junta leaders and referred to Min Aung Hlaing as the “leader of Myanmar.”

The NUG took the ambassador’s words as an endorsement of the coup and a slight.

“China often says they are doing things in the interest of our people, but that is not the case,” Zin Mar Aung said.

“Though the entire world can hear the voices of our people, neighboring countries pretend not to hear them. Referring to Min Aung Hlaing as the leader of Myanmar showed a total ignorance of the people’s desires,” she said.

The actions of the Chinese ambassador, as well as two ASEAN foreign ministers who met only the military government during recent visits to Myanmar prompted the shadow foreign minister to send an open letter to Wang, expressing concern that China and ASEAN were ignoring the NUG.

Hla Kyaw Zaw, a China-based Myanmar military expert, said the onus was on the people of Myanmar to deal with the military dictatorship because every country will act in its own interest.

“Whether it’s China or ASEAN, they will do things in their own diplomatic way. We don’t need to think about how important their efforts are for the sake of Burma,” he said.

“It is encouraging that the people do not believe everything the military council said, but they need to put pressure on the military in some way. It is up to our people to help themselves,” Hla Kyaw Zaw said.

Naing Swe Oo, a former military officer and executive director of the Yangon-based Thayninga Institute of Strategic Studies, said Beijing would “continue to cooperate with the new government.”

The pro-junta analyst told RFA China “has supported Myanmar in several instances in the past. We can see that they wish for stability.”

Sino-Myanmar relations expert Min The told RFA, however, that he did not believe that China actually supports a return to democracy in Myanmar

“There is no goodwill nor love in politics…only self-interest. Just look at the history of China. What kind of cooperation that promotes or supports democracy have you seen in Chinese cooperation with so-called third world countries?” Min The said.

“I don’t think China has that kind of history of showing support for democracy. Since it is a communist country, in its past it only supported communism. It is unbelievable that a country like China would support democracy,” he said.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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