Myanmar projects “enemy conspiracy” International community awaits Chinese response
GT reporters Qiu Yongzheng, Tan Furong, Su jing, GT foreign correspondent Sun Wei, Ji Shuangcheng, Tao Duanfang
Responding to a question on the border situation at a press conference, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said loud and clear, “We have the responsibility and the ability to firmly safeguard safety and stability on China-Myanmar border and protect lives and property of our people”. The news of Myanmar military aircraft killing and wounding many residents in our territory on March 13 has drawn sharp reaction in the country. Chinese defence ministry, foreign ministry as well as its embassy in Myanmar has each taken up the issue seriously with Myanmar authorities on several occasions. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of Central Military Committee (CMC), held talks with the Myanmar authorities and demanded stern action against those responsible for the act. He told them to strictly control their armed forces and to ensure that such an incident does not recur ever again. Several Chinese military experts and foreign affairs experts told in interviews given to “Global Times”, the bombing was intentional or accidental can be determined only after the results of the formal investigation come out but China should be more active in its “initiative” and should promote peace and participate actively in the peace process in northern Myanmar. China Myanmar border cannot be messed up; stability in Myanmar’s northern region is necessary as it serves the common interests of the two nations and their people.
“A stirring warning”
On March 15 at noon, Chinese premier held a press conference for more than two hours. When the host declared the end of the press conference, a few journalists called out to the Prime Minister Li Keqiang, who had already got up from his seat, asking him about the China-Myanmar border issue, hoping to get a response (from him). Prime Minister Li Keqiang “made an exception” and sat down to reply: “you have touched upon a very painful matter. On our side of the China-Myanmar border, a few of our countrymen have lost their lives and property. I would first of all like to express my condolences and deep sympathies to victims’ families. Meanwhile our government, foreign ministry and military have taken up the matter seriously with the Myanmar side. We have the responsibility and the ability to firmly maintain safety and stability on China-Myanmar border and protect lives and property of our people”.
“New York Times” reported, at a press conference after the conclusion of the NPC (National people’s Congress) session, Prime Minister Li Keqiang issued “the most stirring warning” (to Myanmar). According to Singapore’s “United Morning post (Lianhe zao bao)” on March 15, Fan Changlong, vice chairman of Chinese Military Committee (CMC) held talks with Minang Lai, Myanmar armed forces commander-in-chief, in the afternoon of March 14 regarding the civilian casualties in Myanmar airstrike on March13 in Yunnan. He warned the Myanmar army top officials to strictly control their armed forces and not to repeat a similar incident or “resolute measures” will be taken (against them).Fan Changlong pointed out that Myanmar should understand the gravity of the issue and treat it seriously and should punish the people responsible for the incident. They should apologise to the victims’ families and compensate and send an explanation to the Chinese side. Minang Lai said, Myanmar can understand the feelings on the Chinese side. We will send people at the earliest possible to carry out a thorough investigation along with the Chinese counterparts. We will examine all the people involved in the incident and resolve the issue appropriately.
The officials at Chinese embassy in Bhutan told “Global Times” on March 15, Myanmar government publicity department issued a formal statement the same evening in both Bhutanese and English on the official website. The statement said Myanmar expresses deep sorrow at the civilian casualties in China and also said that the Foreign affairs and Defence ministry of the two sides will work jointly to investigate the matter.
Joint investigation by the impartial authorities at the earliest possible
Ruan Zongze, the head of the China Institute of International Studies told ‘Global Times” on March 15, lot of things are still not clear in this whole story, at the moment we can’t conclude for sure if the bombing was accidental, we need to maintain a calm and objective attitude. But irrespective of the conclusion, the civilian Chinese casualties are absolutely unacceptable to us; our position, evidently, is that the culprits should be brought to justice. He said first of all we need to supervise and finish the joint investigation at the earliest possible. Once the investigation concludes, then we will do the needful.
On March15, Myanmar’s official English newspaper “New light of Myanmar” said Myanmar’s Vice President Sai Mauk Kham met Chinese ambassador the previous day but did not give out the details of the meeting. The deputy director of the Myanmar President Office, Zuo Tai, told in an interview to “Reuters”, “all the air raid targets of the Burmese army are within the national territory”, moreover there is continuous exchange of information between Burmese and Chinese Armies and as for the Myanmar airstrikes, Myanmar army “strictly follows the agreement of informing the Chinese side in advance”. Zuo Tai added, “(this mishap) is possibly an intentional attack by the enemy, an attempt to create misunderstanding between the two sides.” However another private Myanmar newspaper “The Voice Daily” quoted a senior Myanmar Army official saying, “Chinese civilians were accidentally killed in the explosion when National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA, Kokang) was “digging a tunnel” at the China Myanmar border. Government warplanes intended to attack the armed men of NDAA (Kokang) but unexpectedly the armed men fled inside the tunnel, resulting in the mistaken bombing.
Responding to Myanmar official’s argument NDAA (Kokang) spokesperson Mr. Song told “Global Times” in a telephone interview on March 15, “First of all, NDAA (Kokang) does not have any heavy weapons, how will we have big bombs which can be thrown to such great distances. If we really had heavy weaponry, our army would not be on the defensive all the time. Secondly, NDAA’s primary enemy is Myanmar Military; it is fighting a war with Myanmar government troops, whereas government troops have launched heavy artillery and air force attack on the Chinese side of the border.” Mr. Song continued Myanmar government is at present faced with frequent student protests and immense pressure from opposition groups and a sloppy economy. Military offensive has been deliberately stepped up in the Kokang region of northern Burma to ease the pressure on the government.
China’s neighbourhood diplomacy should be more active
The incident of Myanmar warplanes killing and wounding Chinese civilians has drawn the attention of the international community. Britain’s “Daily Telegraph” said on March 15, this is clearly a case of mistaken target; Myanmar warplane was possibly trying to attack the armed targets of NDAA in the Kokang region. After the incident China deployed its fighter aircrafts to patrol the skies above the China Myanmar border. China has already sent several batches of fighter planes, to “track, monitor, warn and chase away” any planes coming from Myanmar.
According to America’s “Los Angeles Times”, after five years of peace, Myanmar government troops and local armed forces are engaged in fierce battle in the China Myanmar border area as the local people are fighting for more democracy from the central government. Report said this conflict has put China in a very awkward situation. Kokang and Yunan have deep commercial and personal connection. But China has for long upheld its non-interference policy. Generally speaking China’s reaction is relatively restrained. Kokang local rebel leaders have appealed to all “same root, same family” people to provide support, but Chinese media has not paid much attention to the Kokang situation. According to a March 15 report on the website of Britain’s “Economist”, this conflict at the China Myanmar border has occurred at a time when all sorts of problems are spreading in Myanmar. The long-term risk of the Kokang problem is that it could affect the autumn general elections.
The researcher at the Institute of Asia Pacific studies (IAPS) of The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) Xu Liping told “Global Times”, in fact, China’s position is very clear, northern Myanmar issue is Myanmar’s internal matter, hope they will find a peaceful solution. But at the same time, China-Myanmar border cannot be messed up, northern Burma should be stable, it is in the common interest of the two countries and their people. He said it is required that China promotes and participates more actively in the northern Burma peace process to maintain stability at the China Myanmar border. China has taken the lead in initiating discussions between the representatives of the Kachin Independent Army and Myanmar government troops. We will now on promote this aspect and step up our efforts in this direction. In ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), non-interference policy is generally the cornerstone of the foreign policies of all the nations. However in certain conflict prone zones of Southeast Asia, the success stories of the third party intervention in the internal peace process of a country and signing of the peace treaties are not uncommon. This incident is also a test for the role to be played by a big country like China.
- 本报记者 邱永峥 谭福榕 苏静 ●本报驻外记者 孙微 纪双城 陶短房