Chinese diplomat, Myanmar EAOs to meet with military council

A Chinese government official is scheduled to meet on Thursday with representatives of the Myanmar military regime and three ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) on the Myanmar-China border, according to online media sources.

The Facebook page Mongla News posted a photo of the EAO leaders arriving in Mongla, eastern Shan State, on Tuesday with an accompanying statement about the planned meeting. The post said the foreign affairs special envoy for Yunnan Province had also come to attend the meeting in Mongla as a representative of the Chinese government.

The three EAOs sending representatives to the meeting are the Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), also known as the Kokang Army.

All three groups are members of the Northern Alliance, which has previously lent assistance to the anti-junta resistance movement. The Kachin Independence Army, which also belongs to the alliance, has played a major role in supporting groups formed to oppose the junta that seized power in February 2021.

Neither the military council nor the Chinese government has made public statements regarding the meeting.

However, the regime issued statements announcing a visit to Naypyitaw early last month by Qin Gang, the Chinese minister of foreign affairs, and a meeting between Major General Yang Yang, acting director general of Chinese military intelligence, and the junta’s deputy prime minister, Lieutenant General Soe Win, a few weeks later.

Myanmar Now contacted spokespeople for the AA and TNLA with questions about their meeting with the military council and the Chinese official, but they declined to make any comment.

The three EAOs in question did not sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), signed by the Myanmar military and other ethnic organisations in 2015, and have all engaged in combat with junta forces since the February 2021 coup.

The AA entered into an informal ceasefire with the military in November of last year, but made public statements at the time emphasising that it was not intended as a “permanent solution.”

Conflict between the junta and the other Northern Alliance members is ongoing. The MNDAA repulsed assaults on their bases by junta forces in northern Shan State in December and January, while the TNLA has allied with the People’s Defence Force (PDF) formed by the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) in battling military forces and has been the target of junta artillery and air attacks.

While all three organisations had previously declined invitations from the military council to meet, representatives of other EAOs have met with junta officials in Naypyitaw since the coup, including the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the National Democratic Alliance Army (also known as the “Mongla Group”), and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA).

These three organisations are members of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee, which also includes the four Northern Alliance members.

Political analyst Than Soe Naing dismissed the meeting with the military council and the three organisations as a move by the Chinese government to pursue its own interests and grow its influence.

“This is just another peace talk to convince the ethnic armed groups not to ally with the National Unity Government and join forces with the military council instead, as China assumes that the Spring Revolution is dependent on American and Western European support,” Than Soe Naing said, referring to Myanmar’s pro-democracy resistance movement against the 2021 military coup. 

“This intervention by China will push the country deeper into the hole of military dictatorship,” he added.

During his visit to Naypyitaw in early May, Chinese foreign affairs minister Qin Gang met with military officials and the head of the previous military dictatorship, Than Shwe. He said he respected the military regime’s territorial rights in Myanmar and strongly supported the country’s stability and continuing development.

The day after meeting with the Chinese minister, the military council pardoned over 2,000 political prisoners charged with incitement under Myanmar Penal Code Section 505a, but most of the pardoned detainees were already close to completing their prison terms.

Deng Xijun, China’s special envoy to Myanmar, met with members of several EAOs in Mongla earlier this year, including the groups sending representatives to Thursday’s meeting.

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