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Myanmar factory attacks put focus on Chinese influence

BANGKOK: Confusion over what precisely occurred throughout recent attacks on factories in Myanmar has highlighted the advanced and troubled nature of the nation’s relations with China amid a broad public backlash towards a Feb 1 coup.

Many in Myanmar suspect Beijing of supporting the army’s takeover, and there has lengthy been a deep vein of resentment towards China’s rising influence, however protesters insist they weren’t liable for a spate of attacks on factories final weekend.

Adding to the uncertainties, China has mentioned it’s ready to do extra to guard its intensive enterprise investments in Myanmar, which embrace factories, pipelines and different massive infrastructure tasks.

China’s state-run Global Times asserted that protesters “incited by the West” had attacked 32 factories, inflicting 240 million yuan (about US$30 million) in harm.

Turmoil is unhealthy for enterprise and can deter traders, the Chinese state-owned broadcaster CGTN mentioned in a commentary.

READ: Anti-China outrage pulls Beijing into Myanmar coup crisis

“But China won’t allow its interests to be exposed to further aggression. If the authorities cannot deliver and the chaos continues to spread, China might be forced into taking more drastic action to protect its interests,” CGTN mentioned.

With restricted web and cellphone connectivity, outdoors observers face growing issue verifying what goes on in Myanmar or getting an official response from the junta. The huge Hlaing Thayar industrial zone and a number of other different districts of Yangon, the nation’s largest metropolis, have been beneath martial regulation since Monday (Mar 15), placing them beneath full army management and making it tough for protesters to organise and talk.

READ: Commentary: Is China using Myanmar coup to ramp up influence in Southeast Asia?

But folks residing within the space — dwelling to lots of of clothes, shoe and different factories — mentioned solely a handful of factories had been affected. Local TV networks together with the military-run Myawaddy TV reported that 5 factories had been burnt in Hlaing Thayar on Sunday.

Much of the controversy over the arson attacks has centered on what occurred in and across the Chinese-owned Xing Jia shoe factory in Hlaing Thayar. According to information from Panjiva and the Myanmar Investment Commission, the factory makes Western model boots similar to DeWalt and Dunlop and all kinds of clothes.

But accounts from a number of sources, together with Yangon-based labor organiser Andrew Tillett-Saks, say the fires broke out after 5 garment staff had been shot and killed by the army after they reported to the factory to gather their February wages.

People residing within the industrial zone contacted by telephone by the Associated Press mentioned that regardless of suspicions that the Feb 1 coup had Chinese assist, staff weren’t liable for burning the factories, that are protected by excessive partitions and guards.

Myanmar protests, China embassy Yangon - Naung Kham (4)

Protesters in entrance of the Chinese embassy in Yangon on Thursday, Feb 11, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

“Many shouted in anger to burn down Chinese-owned factories, but none actually implemented such attacks because it’s hard to access those areas and many residents work in those factories,” mentioned San Maung, a bicycle repairman residing within the space.


“If people had wanted to attack these places, they could have done so since day one,” San Maung mentioned.

READ: China ‘very concerned’ for safety of citizens in Myanmar

According to the unbiased group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the violence Sunday claimed no less than 38 lives. The Myanmar-based group, which retains a tally of deaths associated to the crackdown, mentioned that as of Wednesday, 217 folks had been killed and a couple of,191 arrested or charged.

The Facebook web page for the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar was flooded with tens of hundreds of indignant feedback from native residents incensed over the dearth of any point out of sympathy for individuals who died within the violence, after the web page posted a name for higher safety for the factories and Chinese personnel.

Myanmar protests, China embassy Yangon - Naung Kham (5)

Protesters in entrance of the Chinese embassy in Yangon on Feb 11, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

“Worryingly, there’s plenty of anti-Chinese sentiments,” Thiri Thant Mon of Pegu Partners, a Yangon-based consultancy, said Thursday in a web seminar hosted by Japan’s Nikkei Asia. “That’s worrying because there are a lot of native Myanmar Chinese businesspeople as well.

“Any kind of racial tension is worrying,” she mentioned.

Apart from lots of of factories making principally clothes, footwear and different mild industrial merchandise, China has huge investments in Myanmar’s power and mining sectors.

One of the most important investments is twin oil and fuel pipelines that run almost 800km from Made island on Myanmar’s west coast to Ruili, on the border of China’s Yunnan province.

Before the coup, Aung San Suu Kyi’s authorities, which was attributable to stay in energy after a landslide win in a November election, had introduced a young for an additional massive Chinese-led venture, an enormous, deep-water port in Kyaukphyu, western Myanmar. A January go to by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi drew a pledge for each side to work towards finishing that venture and pushing forward with an “financial hall” linking China’s southwestern Yunnan province with the port and major cities in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s leaders for years have long relied on China, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, to help shield both military and civilian-led governments from harsh UN sanctions for human rights abuses.

The coup and its aftermath have raised risks for all doing business in and with Myanmar, analysts say.


But such setbacks are nothing new for China, whose relations with its resource-rich neighbour were ruptured for a few years in the late 1960s when anti-Chinese riots broke out during Mao Zedong’s ultra-leftist Cultural Revolution.

Beijing will likely continue to push Myanmar authorities to protect Chinese businesses, while adopting a “wait and see” strategy, mentioned Kaho Yu, senior Asia analyst at analysis agency Verisk Maplecroft.

“This is the course they should take,” he said. “They can’t simply retreat.”

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