|Arakanese internally displaced villagers in Ann township living under temporary camp.|
AN. Sittway. July 30, 2020.
Several articles appeared on international media that China is accused to providing weapons to Arakan Army, the most significant accusation is the recent seizure of Chinese made weapons in Mae Sud on Thai-Myanmar border town.
Irrawaddy News widely covered the news and wrote the weapons would be smuggled to Arakan State (Rakhine State). But Thai authority said it would be linked with Karen border security guard, formerly Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).
Arakan Army denied the accusation.
On the other hand, Myanmar army fired several rounds of artilleries into the location of Kyaukphyu-Yunnan gas and oil pipelines in the second week of July, where no military clash was reported, that raised Chinese leaderships’ eyebrows in Beijing.
Moreover, Myanmar soldiers have been searching and arresting dozens of civilians in Kyaukphyu township, mostly from the villages locating near the pipeline. Thousands of villagers have been feeling and displaced in Kyaukphyu township in recent weeks after the military rounding up. The internally displaced villagers have sought shelters in Buddhist temples in the town.
Local analysts assume that the attack on the pipeline is Myanmar army is gravitating Chinese to involve in war between the Myanmar army and Arakan Army, mainly Burmese are forcing Chinese to take side with the Myanmar military.
“Myanmar army is playing with two Asian supper powers, Chinese and Indian, for equilibrium to counter Arakan Army, in which Myanmar army wants China to stop supporting AA but seeking more assistances from India—intelligent, technology, cooperation, and ban on border crossing—for its counter insurgency operation,” said an analyst who does not want to publish his name for security reason.
Both China and India have multi billion dollars projects of seaports, roads, river way, and pipeline in Arakan State while neglecting the local people but only relaying on the central government and the military for security and benefit sharing.
These international projects are undeniable factors of widening armed conflict in Arakan State—resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties and over 200,000 local populations displaced, whereas billions of dollars revenues providing to the military top brasses and central government when all local people are left behind and deepened into chronic poverty.
Local right group, Arakan Oil Watch, called to halt all foreign projects in Arakan State, including the Chinese pipelines and Indian seaport and river way projects. The organization said these projects are fueling the conflict in Arakan State. It said the hard currency goes into the hands of military and purchasing jet fighters and weapons that are using in the military operations.
The Chinese project known as Sino-Myanmar pipeline and transit oil tanker port in Kyaukphyu township. The twin gas and crude oil pipelines are 479 miles long and connected to Kunming in Yunnan Province in China. These projects have been invested billions of dollars by Chinese state own China National Petroleum Corporation and contracted with Myanmar state owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. China also has the oil tanker port in Kyaukphyu.
The Indian has two projects, a seaport in Sittway that connecting to Kolkata and Kaladan river project that links to Paletwa in Chin State and then connecting by road to Mizoram State in northeast region. Indian has invested 484 million dollars and ambitious to open a trade route to southeast Asian nations.
The road and bridge construction projects in Paletwa township have been somehow unyielding due to Myanmar army and AA intensifying fighting in Paletwa region since 2019. Several Indian engineers were briefly arrested by AA when they were coming to Kyauktaw by speedboat in last November. Hardware supply ship was also attacked by AA last year.
After the arrest of Indians, some Indian analysts recklessly accuse that AA is working for China and attempting to stop Indian project in Arakan and Chin states.
AA commander Tun Myat Naing denies the accusation and says China does not physically supporting AA but indicated its projects and employees in Kyaukphyu to be secure and protected. Instead, he urges Indian authority to engage with Arakanese people.
He said on an interview taken by Chin ethnic media in this months that Indian had arrested and drove out AA members from India territory when they were treating in hospitals for wounded in the battles. Moreover, India had killed several Arakanese leaders and arrested in an island in Adman sea in 1998 when they were invited by Indian authority to set up a military base.
He said this bad record of Indian authority should be amended and urged directly engage with AA for sake of all people. He said dealing alone with Myanmar central government does not work at all.
For the accused of Chinese support, he said if a powerful country like China supports AA, he will be able to take down Naypaytaw, the capital city of public administration, and assist to liberate all other oppressed ethnic people.
What he tries to explain the accusation of Chinese support is AA does not get any support from China.
The weapons caught in Mae Sud were in fact belong to Karen border guard force, GBF, according to the local analyst. He told our news agency those weapons were bought by Thai traders from Laos border and tried to sell BGF.
He said Irrawaddy news tried to linked it with AA and ARSA, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, as an attempt to discredit AA without concrete profs.
He said, “What a joke. AA does not need these kinds of junk weapons. Besides, how can AA pass through the over 15 police and military check points in order to reach Arakan State by land transportation? What a nonsense.”
“In fact, Karen BGF is buying more weapons to give pressure on Myanmar government and to protect the Chinese mafia funded billions dollar-worth new city project known as Shwe Kokko project. BGF and Myanmar military are working hand in order to success the project on Thai-Myanmar border,” he said.
There is rumor that Myanmar government is giving pressure on BGF to halt the Chinese funded Shwe Kokko project on Thai-Myanmar border. For this, BGF is building up more forces and aiming to protect the illicit casino town project.
Another neighboring supper power India is wooed to Arakan conflict to take side with Myanmar military.
The Arakanese analyst advises Indian authority should be very careful when dealing and supporting Myanmar army because it is a huge trap.
Indeed, some Indian lobbyists and commentators are recklessly approaching Indian government to take side with Myanmar army. Instead, they should urge Indian government to engage with the Arakanese people and AA. Otherwise, Arakan people will see Indian as enemy so that their projects in Rakhine and Chin states will not be successful.
As Chinese part, they are cleaver enough and see through AA is largely supported by its own people. Chinese analysts have been written many articles and highlighted the role of China as the country has very minimal leverage in Arakan conflict but advised it should be dealt with domestic solution.
The key point of Arakan conflict is political correctness. Arakanese voices and decision on natural resources management as well as foreign projects in that territory are no longer a single hand decision of central government as it used to be.
There are a number of factors, but sloid points are Arakan Army is supported by the people and they will fight together for the innate rights. Myanmar army will not be able wipe out entire AA fighters in their native land.
As historical fact and current trend, Arakan political parties will always win and play dominant roles in electoral political process in Arakan State. Political will of Arakanese are strong and determinant. Of course, Arakan people will vote for their national parties in the election in November. This political will indicate that there is almost no hope the Burman dominant parties, National League for Democracy nor Union Solidarity and Development Party, will swift major victory in Arakan State.
One way or another, the central government has to deal with the Arakanese people, or choose for more conflicts that will definitely lead to international solutions in ICJ or ICC or both, whereas more civilians are killed and forced to displace millions of people.
At this moment, it is wise for both China and India to stay hands off in Arakan conflicts but work through the United Nations and regional forum instead of taking side with the military, a trap that is pulling in the neighboring giants into the domestic conflict.
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