Mounting public anger against China and its companies in Myanmar has gone unnoticed thanks to the din over the China-Taiwan issue and the Russia-Ukraine war. In barely a week, numerous incidents of violence against Chinese interests have demonstrated the pent-up fury among the Myanmarese people against China and its exploitative investments in their country.
This Sunday, the Natogyi Guerrilla Force (NGF) attacked Myanmarese soldiers guarding oil and gas pipelines in the Mandalay region. According to a news report in The Irrawaddy, the guerrillas attacked the Myanmarese soldiers with rockets. Bo Zeyar, a member of the NGF said: “We fired three 60-mm rockets at the control centre on May 7. The rockets hit the building. We learned that two junta soldiers were killed and five others wounded”.
The Irrawaddy says that claims about the casualties are unverified. A Myanmarese source told India Narrative that China is providing training and weapons to the rebel Arakan Army (AA) in an effort to provide protection to its oil and gas pipelines that run from Kyaukphyu port through Mandalay and Namkham in Myanmar to enter Ruili in Yunnan, China. Many locals see the oil and gas pipelines as a symbol of exploitation when large parts of Myanmar do not have adequate energy.
However, the incident is a pointer to the swelling resentment against the Communist Party of China (CPC) which is seen as propping up the military regime, which has now completed more than two years since toppling the democratically-elected government of popular leader Aung San Suu Kyi and took over power on February 1, 2021.
Besides the armed rebels, common people also are openly showing their disdain for China.
In another incident that took place on Thursday, May 11, people protested against Chinese investments in mines in Monywa city in Sagaing region. They also burnt a Chinese flag in public and took out an anti-China rally. In a show of defiance, the Myanmarese people have protested against the Chinese in cities like Yangon, Salingyi and Yinmabin towns.
Monywa city has some of the biggest mines – the Letpadaung copper mines, which are being exploited by Chinese companies under the patronage of the government in Beijing. The mines have seen violence by people earlier also due to feelings of economic exploitation.
In yet another incident, sources in Monywa city told India Narrative that the rebels used landmines and bombs to blow up a truck carrying copper between the villages of Chownow and Myinmu. The copper mines are surrounded by nearly 30 villages which are angry with the Chinese company for exploiting their resources. Mining operations have also polluted agricultural land which has made the villagers resentful against China.
Negative sentiments against China have simmered earlier also.
These sentiments were stoked recently after Chinese Foreign Minister Yin Gang visited Myanmar on May 2 to meet with Myanmar junta leader, General Min Aung Hlaing. Even as Qin described the two countries as “brothers who share the same mountain and water”, Beijing made efforts to signal that the high-level meet should not be construed as an endorsement of Myanmar’s military regime.
Before Qin met with the Junta leadership, he had visited the China-Myanmar border at Yunnan where he played hot and cold politics. While talking about friendly relations between the two neighbours, Qin also warned about the escalating violence in Myanmar spilling over to China.
The Chinese Foreign Minister also called upon the Communist Party, the local government, military, police and civilians in the border town of Ruili, Yunnan, to strengthen the border defence system and severely crack down on cross-border criminal activities from Myanmar. The two countries share a hyper-active border with all kinds of people crossing over for work, tourism, pleasure and even criminal activities.
Qin’s visit to the border and his meeting with the military leaders fired protests in Myanmar against both – China as well as the military government. The estrangement with the junta has naturally spread to the Communist Party of China (CPC) which is seen as not only propping up the military regime but also stripping the people of Myanmar of their rightful natural resources.
With the Western countries continuing to thumb their noses at Myanmar’s military junta and the South-East Asian nations unable to exert themselves, Beijing has nimbly and happily stepped in to fill up the vacuum in Naypyidaw – Myanmar’s capital.
Also Read: Taiwan firms hoist up flags, symbols after anti-China violence in Myanmar