Myanmar Descends Into Chaos

(MENAFN- NewsIn) By K

Colombo, February 21: As Myanmar descends into chaos, mega Indian and Chinese projects are getting stuck, dogged by security issues.

The writ of the military government does not run in the northern part of the country where armed ethnic groups rule the roost. In the South, there is no love lost between the majority Bamar community and the military rulers. The Buddhist Bamar resent the junta as much as the Christian tribes of the North do. The only difference is that bombs don't rain on the Bamar as they do on the tribes of the North.


To add to the peoples' woes, the junta is planning to impose conscription on the Bamar, and that has triggered illegal immigration into Thailand. Anticipating migration to India, New Delhi has suspended visa-free entry and has announced a project to fence the 1,643-km border.

Since the 2021 military coup, thousands of civilians and hundreds of Myanmar troops have fled to the North-Eastern Indian States. Recently, the Arakan Army's campaigns against the junta troops triggered a fresh wave of migration to India.

The Indian State of Manipur abutting Myanmar had been restive for a year, with the Hindu Meiteis and Christian Kukis fighting each other. The Christian Chins of Myanmar, who migrate to Manipur, have been supporting the Kukis.

Indian Projects

India has two key projects in Myanmar, the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan multi-model transport project. The 1,400-kilometer India-Myanmar-Thailand highway begins in Moreh in Manipur, passes through Myanmar, and ends at Mae Sot in Thailand. Construction began in 2012 and 70% of it has been completed. But it cannot proceed further because of the fighting in North Myamar.

Also at a standstill is the Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project, which is to link Kolkata port with Sittwe port in Rakhine State in North Myanmar and then link up with North East India. The Chin State, Sagaing Region, Magway Region, and Karen State, where most of the work is to be done, are engulfed in armed conflicts.

Chinese Projects

China has three interests in Myanmar: (a) to maintain stability on the China-Myanmar border, where fighting between the military and ethnic armed groups is taking place; (b) to protect and advance a strategic economic and energy corridor linking its South Western provinces to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean; (c) to stem Western influence on Myanmar.

Beijing is worried about the junta's inability to subdue the rebellious Northern tribal groups and stamp out crime, which is rampant in the North because of the disturbed conditions. This has endangered China's connectivity projects. China desperately needs an outlet to the Bay of Bengal from Yunnan through Arakan in Myanmar.

The Kyaukphyu port project is linked to the Shwe gas field. This is a joint venture between the China National Petroleum Company and the Myanmar Ministry of Oil and Gas Enterprises. A pier and 12 tanks were built and these commenced operations in 2013. The 750 km oil pipeline and 770 km gas pipeline to Kunming became operational in 2017. That year, PetroChina opened a refinery in Kunming that was able to handle 7% of China's total refining needs.

China saw the Kyaukphyu port as a way of solving the“Malacca dilemma”. China feared that if the Malacca Strait was blockaded, two-thirds of its energy imports and trade flows would be hindered. An alternative route had to be found and that was through Myanmar to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.

In 2018, the two countries established the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC). All Sino-Myanmar projects were combined to form the CMEC. The project included the 1,736 hectare Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and two deep water container ports on the Maday and Ramree islands. Working a full capacity, the ports would be able to berth 10 ships at once and handle 4.9 million containers annually.

The prospects of these projects were heady. They were to add US$ 10 billion to Myanmar's GDP annually and create 100,000 new jobs. But according to Radio Free Asia, these promises are only on paper.

There was also a pushback from the elected National League of Democracy (NUD) government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Fearing a Sri Lanka type of debt trap, the Aug San Suu kyi administration renegotiated the agreement, lowering China's stake to 70% from 85% and decreasing the overall debt. But the ethnic cleansing of Rohinya Muslims from Rakhine State prevented progress in the project.

However, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Myanmar in January 2020 and taking advantage of Aung San Suu Kyi's diplomatic isolation following the forced expulsion of Rohingya Muslims in 2017, he
made Myanmar sign more than 30 agreements, many of which related to Kyaukphyu and its rail links.

Seven months after the military seized power in February 2021, work began on the Kyaukphyu SEZ site. But there were immediate protests from the 20,000 locals who were being displaced.
The electricity plants also shut down. Irregular supply of LNG, currency controls and other issues related to the post-coup investment climate in Myanmar were blamed. The government was unable to pay in US dollars for the amount of electricity that it contracted to buy.

In March 2023, a Chinese company signed a MOU to provide 100 mw of wind energy in Kyaukphyu, along with 150 mw and 110 mw wind farms in nearby townships. Construction is to be completed in 2025.

Connectivity to the port is also behind schedule. There has been very little progress on the 810-km Muse-Kyaukphyu railway, while China has only completed a portion of the railroad from Kunming to the border, according to Radio Free Asia.

On-line Scams

Eager to bring about peace in North Myanmar, China urged those armed groups on the border which were dependent on it for supplies and trade, to exercise restraint in their attacks on the government forces. But the junta's brutal crackdown on the armed groups and also civilians, prevented the armed groups from exercising any restraint.

But the thriving online scam centres in the border areas forced China to act against Myanmar's military rulers. Myanmar's mountainous borderlands have long been a haven for gambling, drugs and the trafficking of humans, carried out by tribal war lords in association with unscrupulous Chinese businessmen.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, online scam operations – many run by Chinese organized crime bosses – have flourished. According to CNN,
tens of thousands of people, mainly Chinese, have been trapped and forced by criminal gangs to defraud strangers with sophisticated schemes over the internet.

As the ethnic militias captured towns and military posts in the northern Shan state, numerous scam compounds near the Chinese border were liberated. Thousands of trafficked victims were sent back to China, along with suspected ringleaders, CNN said.

Powerful warlord families, backed by the junta and once deemed untouchable by the police, are now in the custody of Chinese police. The alliance of rebels called the“Brotherhood Alliance”, has pledged to eradicate the junta as well as the scam dens and their patrons nationwide.

However, China cannot entirely abandon the junta as it is still in power. Beijing helped the junta broker a temporary ceasefire with the rebels but that broke.

Though armed to the teeth, the junta is now in trouble as it never was before. If the West, China and India collaborate, Myanmar can be rid of the junta. India has already called for the establishment of a federal democracy in Myanmar. But the first thing that both India and China should do is to stop defence cooperation with the junta.




Legal Disclaimer:
MENAFN provides the information “as is” without warranty of any kind. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, images, videos, licenses, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in this article. If you have any complaints or copyright issues related to this article, kindly contact the provider above.