The Myanmar Times
Friday, 19 December 2014
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Myanmar pledges unrest will not weaken ties with China

The Myanmar government will honour its agreements with China and recent “difficulties” – presumably a reference to the Letpadaung mine conflict – will not harm bilateral cooperation, the Chinese embassy in Myanmar said in a recent statement.

President U Thein Sein met a Chinese delegation led by Mr Zhang Guoqing, head of Chinese arms manufacturer China North Industries Corp (Norinco), and accompanied by Mr Li Junhua, Chinese ambassador to Myanmar, at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw on December 24, the statement said.

Norinco is the major investor in the Letpadaung mine project, which has been the centre of months of unrest over allegations of land confiscations and environmental damage.

China’s state media outlet Xinhua quoted U Thein Sein as saying that his government attaches importance to the smooth implementation of projects between Myanmar and China.

Myanmar will responsibly implement the agreements between governments and between companies, including that with Norinco, said Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann, according to the embassy statement. He also stressed that bilateral cooperation would “not weaken despite some difficulties”, it said.

The meeting came after the Myanmar government initiated a review into the Letpadaung copper mine project in December, following a bloody crackdown on protesters by police on November 29.

The project is a joint venture between Norinco subsidiary Wanbao Mining and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL).

The crackdown came after villagers staged a number of illegal protests.

Scores of monks were injured in the crackdown and the government formally apologised for its role on December 15.

An investigation commission chaired by DawAung San SuuKyi was formed on December 1 and tasked with probing the long-term effects of the copper mine project on the local community. The Chinese embassy said it welcomed a fair and balanced investigation but warned that cancelling the project would dissuade other Chinese companies from investing in Myanmar.

“In the future, China will consistently strengthen economic cooperation with Myanmar, promote cultural exchange between two countries and continue to offer humanitarian aids,” Chinese ambassador Mr Li said in a new year address titled “China’s development is an opportunity for Myanmar”.

“Meanwhile we will place more emphasis on the direct communication between people of [the] two countries so as to lay a solid foundation of public opinion to strengthen the strategic partnership between two countries,” Mr Li said.

On December 25, the embassy also published a special feature on its website detailing the disaster relief and cultural exchange China offered in recent years. “Chinese companies have complied with their social responsibilities. They have provided US$71 million worth of aid to Myanmar’s education, public hygiene, disaster relief and so on and created 15,000 jobs,” the embassy said.

Myanmar established diplomatic ties with China in 1950 and the two countries agreed to establish a “comprehensive strategic partnership” during U Thein Sein’s visit to Beijing in May 2011.

China is Myanmar’s biggest trade partner in 2011-2012 with a bilateral trade volume exceeding US$5 billion, according to Myanmar’s Central Statistical Organisation.