Chinese frigates dock at Yangon 

China’s Navy is hoping to extend its links with Myanmar. Source: Wikimedia


Two naval vessels from China have arrived in Yangon for a five-day visit in the latest move to reinforce military ties with Myanmar. 

China has been trying to bolster ties with the new government of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, which came to power in April.

China is Myanmar’s main trading partner and investor.

Suu Kyi visited Beijing in August, where President Xi Jinping told her he wanted to ensure the “correct direction” of relations, and a senior Chinese military commander visited Myanmar in September. Suu Kyi needs Beijing’s backing in her peace process in the hope that China can exert pressure on rebel armies which control territory along their mutual border.

“Our two militaries are friends and partners. We are close brothers,” China’s ambassador Hong Liang said after the frigates docked.

The Xiangtan and Zhoushan arrived on Friday and were met by Myanmar military commanders, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The visit was meant to strengthen cooperation and communication, Beijing said.

The vessels are returning from a four-month mission to escort Chinese and other ships taking humanitarian aid to West Asia.

It is the second Chinese port call in Myanmar in recent years.

China is trying to persuade Myanmar to resume work on the US$3.6-billion Myitsone dam project in Kachin State. Around 90 per cent of its power was originally planned to go to China.

In 2011, then-president Thein Sein angered Beijing when he suspended work on the dam, at the confluence of two northern rivers in the Ayeyarwady river basin, after large-scale protests.

Suu Kyi has established a commission led by Deputy Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament T Khun Myat to examine the dam projects, and its findings are keenly awaited in Myanmar.

Campaigners in Kachin State, which borders China, have sent an open letter to President Htin Kyaw opposing the planned hydropower project to be built over the May Kha and Ngaw Chan Kha rivers in the state’s Chipwi and Hsawlaw townships.

Mone Ra, a Kachin community representative, told the Irrawaddy news website: “We heard that the project will be led by [Kachin militia leader] Zahkung Ting Ying and [his son] Zahkung Ying Seng of the Border Guard Force.”

The deal, according to Mone Ra, was signed by the former military government and Chinese companies.

“We are concerned that all our houses and farms will be submerged if dams are built. But they are planning to start the project. That’s why we expressed our opposition,” he said.

The open letter said at least 68 villages and 30,000 villagers along the Ngaw Chan Kha river would be affected. It said the development was unsustainable, as it would disrupt terraced farming on the hillsides.