China’s top diplomat on Saturday arrived on his first visit to Myanmar since the military seized power last year to attend a regional meeting that the Burmese government said was a recognition of its legitimacy and opponents protested as a violation of peace efforts.
Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) is to join counterparts from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in a meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation group in the central city of Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The grouping is a Chinese-led initiative that includes the countries of the Mekong Delta, a potential source of regional tensions due to an increasing number of hydroelectric projects that are altering the water flows and raising concerns of ecological damage.
China has built 10 dams along the upper stretch of the Mekong River, the part it calls the Langcang River.
Burmese Deputy Minister of Information Major General Zaw Min Tun told a news conference in the capital, Naypyidaw, on Friday that the attendance of the foreign ministers at the meeting was a recognition of Myanmar’s sovereignty and its government.
The ministers are to sign memorandums of understanding and contracts, he said without elaborating.
It is unclear whether Wang would meet Burmese Army Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the military government.
Myanmar’s military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1 last year. It was quickly met by nonviolent nationwide demonstrations and triggered armed resistance that some UN experts now characterize as civil war.
According to a detailed list compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 2,053 civilians have died in the crackdown on the resistance movement.
Wang last visited Myanmar to meet with Suu Kyi just three weeks before the military ousted her.
China is Myanmar’s largest trading partner and an long-time ally. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in Myanmar’s mines, oil and gas pipelines, and other infrastructure, and is its major arms supplier.
Many in Myanmar suspect China of supporting the military takeover, and Beijing has refused to condemn the army’s power grab. China says it follows a policy of noninterference in other countries’ affairs.
The minister of foreign affairs in Myanmar’s shadow government, which opposes the ruling military council, protested the Bagan meeting, saying that such efforts in partnership with Myanmar’s military violate the will of the people and undermine community building.
The statement said that holding the foreign ministers’ meeting in Myanmar is in direct opposition to an ASEAN peace plan.
Myanmar, although a member of ASEAN, has done little to implement the plan, and its stonewalling led fellow ASEAN members to block government leaders from attending major ASEAN meetings.
Since the military seized power, Chinese special envoy Sun Guoxiang (孫國祥) has visited Myanmar twice, and Wang has met his Myanmar counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin, twice in China.
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