North Myanmar peace imperative for China

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-16 0:18:02

Clashes between the Kokang ethnic army and government troops were renewed in northern Myanmar's Kokang region on February 9. Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin published an open letter, appealing to Chinese people everywhere that they should offer a helping hand to the Kokang Chinese. Some in the Western media and on the Chinese Internet likened Kokang to Crimea, which spurred much speculation. As Kokang borders China's Yunnan Province, refugees often rush to China when conflicts break out in northern Myanmar. Many of them are Kokang people, an ethnic Chinese minority in Myanmar, thus drawing heightened public attention. 

It's not an easy task for China to deal with the northern Myanmar situation. We now are facing a diplomatic challenge. Varied forces in Chinese society should stay sober and avoid any premature stance or interference in northern Myanmar affairs, so as not to affect the government's diplomacy.

It's necessary to make it clear to the public that there are no territorial issues between China and Myanmar. As early as 1897, Kokang was integrated into British India when Burma was part of it. The Kokang are an ethnic group of Myanmar, but as close as they are to Chinese, they are not citizens of the People's Republic of China.  

  There are no grounds for comparing Kokang to Crimea. Those who are stuck in such comparisons are either spouting nonsense, or have ulterior motives. Peace and stability in the border regions are in China's utmost interest. China should play a role in fostering peace in northern Myanmar and persuading Myanmar government troops and ethnic armed forces to solve the problem through negotiations. A swarm of refugees pouring into China is detrimental to the border stability of China. Therefore, Chinese efforts to urge the peace process are imperative.

China should bolster the friendship that it has established with the Myanmar government and varied social groups. At no time should China get involved in Myanmar's domestic conflicts. Forces, whether in China or Myanmar, should not drive the situation in this direction. To solve the northern Myanmar conundrum requires both fortitude and wisdom. Clashes that have plagued the region since the end of last year have caused mass casualties and plunged the people into misery and suffering. Myanmar will hold general elections late this year, and we hope these will pave the way for national reconciliation and that ethnic conflicts won't affect the voting.

China stands firm on its Myanmar policy. Speculation that China will alter its policy toward Myanmar is a misinterpretation, which will mislead the citizens of Myanmar and China. The intimacy and sympathy that Chinese society holds toward the Kokang people are not decisive elements determining Beijing's policy. A subversive change is unlikely to take place in Beijing's attitude toward Myanmar. In a country of just over 50 million, composed of 134 ethnic groups and where only some of the 29 armed forces in northern region have reached peace deals with the government, it's difficult for the authorities to tackle all ethnic problems. We wish all ethnic groups, including the Kokang, will be able to seize the opportunity for peaceful development.

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