Understanding War and Peace in Myanmar: The West, the Myanmerse and the Chinese

The talk of peace and the acts of war and of mediation is really more about an emerging unholy trinity of manipulation, interest and deception - by the West, the Chinese and the Myanmarese - than about genuine peace and Burmese public well-being.  

There has been talk that China's influence over Myanmar is waning in light of the latter's opening-up and the wooing of Western countries. 

China's influence on not just the generals and their proxy 'civilian' government but on Burma's economy and international relations has not declined. Not at all.  

Anyone who thinks that Burma can be weaned off Beijing's sphere of influence needs only look at the fact that the generals, usually rather hostile to any type of outside intervention, would go to and/or send their negotiators to China to discuss what is essentially a sovereign internal affair - a civil war in Northern Burma. 

The Burmese regime's honeymoon with Washington is pretty much over as evidenced by the US Government's (its embassy in Rangoon) official condemnation in Burmese and English language of the regime's disproportionate use of military power against the Kachins, the blocking of humanitarian access to the Kachin war refugees, and calling the country Burma emphatically, all to the chagrin of the Burmese generals in Naypyidaw. 

As with the 6-hour negotiation and its outcome, just setting up a monitoring mechanism about the troop movements really isn't a big deal. The Kachins have absolutely no reason to trust the regime, nor do they trust it.  

The regime has stopped short of taking the Kachin headquarter because it feels it is best to squeeze every political and military concession out of the Kachin resistance when the latter is effectively under siege. 

So, I wouldn't call this existing scenario a 'progress'. 

Interestingly, the regime sent its peace negotiating team led by Aung Min who has absolutely no sway with the Ministry of Defense and staffed with its civilian cronies and proxies in the disguises of 'peace support professionals' 'witnesses' and third party 'neutral' peace supporters (for instance, the Karen leaders). 

Further, the Myanmar troops are being reinforced and many are openly being transported to the front line, rather than being called back or movements curtailed. 

It's not the first time that such peace talks are hosted in and fasciliated by China. But this time, news reports seemed to indicate a stronger willingness by China to host and facilitate the talks. What do you think are the possible reasons? 

Well, civil wars in the borderlands, however limited, always have unintended consequences and are hard to control. The Kachins are not confined to just Northernmost part of Burma, but they are also scattered across the Eastern Burma where Beijing's main local proxy in that part of the region is the United Wa State Army (UWSA). 

First, there have been reports about China giving the War troops - considered already better armed than the Kachins - more advanced weaponry in the midst of the Burmese war against the Kachin. The Wa in turn are said to have supplied the Kachin some weaponry as a matter of solidarity. So, China may be worried that if it didn't intervene to get the Burmese regime sue for some ceasefire now - rather than annihilate the Kachin resistance - their proxy UWSA might be the next target. 

Second, economically and geo-strategically, Burma is not just a logistically important place. It is a very crucial component of China's long term national - some might say imperialist - strategy to project its military power through deep sea ports along Burmese coasts, to develop the landlocked Southern Chinese provinces which border with Kachin, Wa and Shan provinces in Burna, and to build its energy security by creating an alternative oil and gas transport routes and pipelines vis-a-vis the Straits of Malacca. China has multi-billion dollar commercial projects/assets in Kachin and Shan regions only. 

Third, China may see the end of Washington-Naypyidaw honey moon as a golden opportunity to re-establish its strategic primacy in Burma. China has penetrated Burma economically, strategically, militarily and culturally in ways the United States can never even dream of. 

So, it's a matter of showing the world how vital its role is in Burma's opening up, by getting the Kachin resistance leaders and the regime's 'peace' negotiators to meet on Chinese soil and by sending MOFA officials as mediators.

The West may come with investment dollars and so-called foreign aid, but without ending Burma's civil war of 60 years no big time business nor development is conceivable. That's where China comes in.  It can intervene positively to help end the civil wars in Burma, or it can re-fuel them. 

Some believe that as Myanmar opens up further, its relations with China, which has been its biggest partner, would cool.  Such prospects have worried China, which sees strategic value in Myanmar as a logistical gateway and market for its southwestern provinces. Do you think China has cause for concern and why? 

The bottom line about peace in this foreign relations triangle of self-interested manipulation and deception is this: 

Myanmar generals are in no position to anger both Beijing and the West simultaneously. So, if they openly object to Washington's condemnation, not really over how the country is called, Burma or Myanmar, of their internal colonial war against the Kachins then they need to keep fairly contented the neighboring Pauk-Hpaw or birth-mate as the Chinese are referred to as by the Burmese politicians and generals. 

The key to understanding these issues is to fully appreciate that the Burmese generals do not really give a damn about peace as either a value or an intrinsic goal. For them, peace means near-total surrender and political neutralization of the enemies.   As such 'peace' is, to the Burmese generals, a means to some other lucrative and strategic end.
Seen in this light, no genuine peace is conceivable, let alone realizable. The West is stupidly pouring millions down the drain when it says it is supporting 'peace support initiatives' in Myanmar.  Well, that's a story for another day - and their taxpayers' money.  

1 comment:

  1. creditable! this article is a drug for Myanmerese liar president thein sein n his culprit prostitute MPs including pseudo democratic icon madam suu kyee her predecessor ko ko gyi a prominent racist amongst 88 generation students. i keep reiteration that salute to u dear sir dr. zarni.


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