With the strong condemnation of G7 on Myanmar’s military coup and the crime against humanity that followed in its crackdown, the western democracies and Japan have tightened the screw to come down harder on the coup-maker junta. But in contrary to this, China has vowed to engage with the junta even though the de facto and de jure legitimacy stance of it and its rival National Unity Government (NUG) is not yet sorted out.
Point 59 of the June 13 Carbis Bay G7 Communique on the situation in Myanmar writes:
“We condemn in the strongest terms the military coup in Myanmar, and the violence committed by Myanmar’s security forces, and we call for the immediate release of those detained arbitrarily. We pledge our support to those advocating peacefully for a stable and inclusive democracy. Recalling ASEAN’s central role, we welcome its Five Point Consensus and urge swift implementation. We reiterate our commitment to ensuring that neither development assistance nor the sale of arms will benefit the military, and urge businesses to exercise due diligence in their trade and investment in the same vein. We reaffirm G7 unity on pursuing additional measures should they prove necessary. We are also deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation, call for unfettered humanitarian access to vulnerable and displaced populations, support the Humanitarian Response Plan, and encourage others to contribute.”
Even then, the G7 communique is taken as not going further enough as the civil society organizations (CSOs) see it as inaction in practical sense and lashed out at the international community as hiding from its responsibility.
Igor Blaževič a European human rights campaigner of Croatian origin living in the Czech Republic wrote recently on his Facebook, which reflects the opinion of CSOs based in Myanmar and also the exiled communities.
He pointed out: “G7 and other regional and international players should stop hiding game. UN is hiding behind China and Russian veto. US and EU are hiding behind the central role of ASEAN. Japan is also hiding behind ASEAN and behind its own constructive neutrality. ASEAN is hiding behind its own inaptitude, internal disagreement and no-interference and consensus rhetoric. Nobody has a clue what Australia is doing. It is not even hiding. It looks as it does not exist. China is hiding behind “internal matters” rhetoric and is also using ASEAN not to allow anybody else to try to effectively help those who are opposing junta. By doing that, China is tacitly helping junta.”
“Consequence is, Myanmar is collapsing in chaos and catastrophe. And we are abandoning the whole 50 million plus nation that has been taken hostage by the Min Aung Hlaing-headed junta,” he added.
Just before US President Joe Biden left to attend the G7 conference, Washington Post wrote that the United States needs to play a leading role in responding to the dangerous actions of the Chinese and Russian governments.
Ahead of the conference on June 10, in retaliation to Western sanctions, President Xi Jinping himself signed into law a law in retaliation for US and Western sanctions on China’s human rights abuses.
This law against foreign sanctions, gives legal basis for the country to counter “discriminatory measures” from a foreign country.
The legislation was passed to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, dignity and core interests and oppose Western hegemonism and power politics, said Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry at a regular press briefing, according to China Global Television Network of June 10.
The Facebook page of the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon states that the purpose is to protect development interests. According to international media reports, the new law will affect foreign companies and businesses investing in China, as well as their families. Large corporations doing business in China will have to leave the Chinese market if they do not comply with the provisions of the law. Under the new law, it is not clear if China will only retaliate actions against China and its leaders, but also extended it to other countries facing US and Western sanctions, such as Myanmar and North Korea. The law is seen as an attempt to counter the imposition of sanctions aimed at promoting democracy and preventing human rights abuses, wrote the RFA Burmese Section in its June 12 report.
Uninterrupted business with the junta
The same RFA report wrote that the country’s internal situation has not affected China’s relations with Myanmar. It has already stated that it will not be involved in punishing the military council.
On June 8, Chinese Foreign Minister Wen Jiabao met with Military Council Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in Chongqing. He said the projects agreed between Myanmar and China would not be canceled. Regardless of whatever Myanmar’s domestic and international situation may be China will not change its cordial relationship with the country and its people. China has always supported Myanmar’s past, present and the future independent free decision said the Foreign Minister Wen Jiabao said in a statement.
Similarly, on June 5, the head of the coup junta, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, met with Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai in Naypyitaw. He said that regardless of the country’s internal situation relationship with Myanmar will not be damaged and in a statement about the meeting, the Chinese embassy addressed General Min Aung Hlaing as the country’s leader.
After Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Myanmar last year, he signed a loan agreement with China-led AIIB Bank for the construction of the Euro-Asia Highway through Myanmar and the construction of the Kyaukphyu Port Special Economic Zone. The Financial Times reports that Chinese authorities have said the projects will not be scrapped even if democracy isn’t restored in Myanmar due to the military coup on February 1.
Given such circumstances, the UN, US, EU, ASEAN and China all seem to be impotent, one way or the other.
UN is ineffective because the humanitarian intervention cannot lift off the ground due to China and Russia veto in United Nations Security Council, which are permanent members.
US and EU are relying on ASEAN as it is the regional bloc and considered most suitable to tackle the conflict, even though they knew that it is hopelessly divided among its members which are made up of absolute monarchy, communist, dictatorship, half-baked democracies and semi-democratic countries. Other than that, it holds dear to the notions of “non-interference” and “territorial integrity” to the point that any intervention is considered to be breaching the international norms of interfering in a country’s internal affairs, even if horrible human rights violations are being committed against one’s population by the ruling own government. In short, legitimacy of a de facto government is upheld even if it is committing crime against humanity. This is a sort of position also held by China.
But China is different in trying to influence the ASEAN even to the point of pushing it not to involve and allow outsiders in any mediation process, which it means the West in general.
And with only second to Singapore in investment in Myanmar, China has a lot to lose, if things go astray because of the people’s revolution.
In a way, it is in a dilemma on which horse to bet, as endorsing the junta will reap the Myanmar people’s anger and consequently the insecurity of all its projects that are in operation and as well those are at a planning stage. And if it sides with the NUG, which is highly unlikely, China isn’t sure if the junta can be defeated easily.
However, the recent moves showed that it is betting on the junta, even if it doesn’t admit it for the time being in official sense.
For the time being, China as all other international players, particularly the G7, want ASEAN to take the lead and implement the five-point consensus given to the junta on April 24 in Jakarta.
But while China and Myanmar junta are on the same page of not wanting any outsiders to be involved in the mediation process, the G7 wanted to be part of the mediation team, even if it has not spelled out officially.
The situation now is escalating domestically in form of physical armed confrontation from heightened wars in five ethnic states and two regions between ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and the local defense forces against the junta; the spreading urban guerrilla warfare, including assassinations in Myanmar’s heartland; to civil disobedience movement (CDM) related conflicts that tend to divide even the civilian society deeply than before, apart from the junta-civilian conflict.
As such, we are edging towards a failed state if the polarization of the main adversaries or players cannot be averted. The G7, UN, China and regional players will have to come up fast with a more practical-pragmatic solution and brush away their inaction if Myanmar is to be saved from falling into abyss.