Monday, June 15, 2009

Maung Aye Starts China Visit

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese junta’s No 2 ranking general made his third trip to China on Monday while Naypyidaw faces sustained international pressure over the trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But what is China’s real position on Burma?

Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye left for Beijing from the airport in the remote capital of Naypyidaw for a six-day official visit to neighboring China, according to the Chinese media.

“Aimed at promoting neighborly, friendly and cooperative ties with China, Maung Aye who is vice-chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), is paying his third visit to China in six years,” China’s state-run Xinhua reported on Monday.

Maung Aye visits China at the invitation of Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping.

As Napyidaw’s closest ally in military, economic and diplomatic ties, Burmese ruling generals often go to China to import more military equipments, for trade as well as to talk about the Burmese political situation.

Burma observers say Chinese officials will discuss their concerns on Burma’s ongoing political situation. The currently hot issue, Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention and trial is expected to be included.

On Suu Kyi’s trial, Beijing has repeated its position that the issue is an internal affair.

“Burma's issue [here] should be decided by the Burmese people,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman at a regular news briefing in May.

However, the spokesman added that China hopes “the relevant parties in Burma could realize reconciliation, stability and development through dialogue.”

For years, stability in Burma was the center of Beijing’s Burma policy. But after the mass demonstrations, led by monks, in September 2007, Burma’s stability under military rule has been an issue for policy makers in Beijing.

Although China did not condemned Burma over the junta’s crackdown on the mass protests, it spoke of its concern.

“We hope all parties can exercise restraint and properly handle the situation there to ensure the situation does not escalate,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman in late September 2007.

After crackdowns on the September demonstrators, the junta’s head, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, sent foreign minister Nyan Win to Beijing as his special envoy to brief the Chinese on the situation.

Though China voted the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)’s binding resolution against the Burmese regime in 2007, it agreed to a non-binding presidential statement of the UNSC that deplored the crackdown and called for dialogue for the national conciliation in Burma.

Recently, the Chinese government’s policy on Burma stresses not only stability but also national conciliation and development in the country.

“The stability and development of Myanmar is not only in the interest of the region, [but it is] also the interest of the whole international community,” said Yan Jiarong, a Chinese representative at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March.

Recent international strategy for efforts to bring change to Burma centers on the influence countries such as China, India and Southeast Asian countries can exert.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said on Friday in Jakarta that China and India should push the junta for reforms.

“Those countries play a key role to find a settlement in Myanmar's issue... and we very much would like to see them urge Myanmar to embrace the value of human rights,” he said.

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