China-Myanmar military ties unrelated to political situation: expert
Published: Feb 18, 2021 10:13 PM

Police vehicles barricade a road outside Sule Pagoda, next to Yangon City Hall in Yangon, Myanmar on February 16. Photo: AFP

 As China and Myanmar have maintained stable and long-term military cooperation, selling weapons to Myanmar's military is normal, Chinese experts said Thursday, refuting a report published by a Myanmar civil society group that claims weapons sold by Chinese companies were "used by the military against its own people." 

The report, published by Justice for Myanmar, said five companies including armored vehicle and munitions developer China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO), military aircraft developer and manufacturer Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), and space giant China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), have provided munitions to Myanmar and are its major supporter. It said companies from India, Israel, Russia and Singapore also provided weapons and related materials to Myanmar. 

Such a report was later interpreted by several overseas anti-China media as "evidence of China's support for the junta." 

"This is a normal trade in arms. Myanmar buys arms not only from China, but also from Russia and India. China is just one of those countries," Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday.

These rumors are not necessarily from inside Myanmar, but more like a familiar propaganda trick used by the West to smear China, which was to deliberately frame China as the cause of the political event in Myanmar, Song said.

China has made it clear that it hopes Myanmar can properly handle its internal disputes and respect the constitution to properly resolve its internal problems. 

Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai said in an interview with local media outlets on Tuesday that "both the National League for Democracy and the Tatmadaw maintain friendly relations with China. The current development in Myanmar is absolutely not what China wants to see." 

"We hope that all parties in Myanmar handle differences properly under the framework of the constitution and laws, and maintain political and social stability," the Chinese Ambassador said. 

"The Myanmar army plays an important role in the country's politics. As the only legal military in Myanmar, it is responsible for safeguarding its national independence and security. Therefore, it is normal for them to buy Chinese weapons and cooperate with Chinese enterprises," Fan Hongwei, director of the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Myanmar has military cooperation with many countries, including Russia, Ukraine, China and India. In the current turmoil in Myanmar, China's military cooperation with Myanmar was interpreted as China's support for the military coup, which is an "imposed crime," Fan said, noting that "it's not just China that sells arms and has military cooperation with Myanmar. There are many other countries, such as India, Russia, Ukraine, and Israel."

"There are a lot of civil society groups in Myanmar, with many accepting funding and training from the West. It is not a secret," Fan said. 

The Global Times learned that "Justice for Myanmar" was founded in 2020 and self-proclaimed as "a covert group of activists." It says its campaign aims to "pressure individual businesses and investors from countries around the world to divest from Myanmar military businesses and deprive the military of profits they receive from everyday people like you."