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Myanmar alleges ‘one foreign country’ arming insurgent groups on its territory



NEW DELHI: India’s immediate neighbour in SE Asia Myanmar has alleged that ‘one foreign country’ is arming the Arkan Army, a rebel group, with sophisticated military technology indicating China’s active role in arming insurgent groups.

According to a news report published in Myanmar recently, Brig Gen Zaw Min Tun, the spokesperson for Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) has said that a foreign country is behind the Arakan Army (AA), citing modern technologies that AA has allegedly used in mine attacks on the military in Rakhine state in 2019. The AA is a declared terrorist organization in Myanmar.

China’s aggressive posturing in SE Asia is facing a pushback with ASEAN states recently emphasising on UNCLOS to address disputes in the South China Sea region where China has created artificial islands and military bases.

U Min Zaw Oo, executive director of Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security, has said that while China has a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries, most of the weapons used by the Myanmar ethnic armed groups operating near Chinese border are made in China.

“There are two ways of arms trade,” he said. “Authorities of Yunnan Province and the armed groups might have economic connections. Some corrupt authorities might sell the arms to the groups. Another way is allowing the trade of arms in the black market,” he added.

Political analysts in Myanmar claim that China has big influence on the insurgent groups, especially those operating close to its border. Among the ethnic groups — United Wa State Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and National Democratic Alliance Army have very close ties to China, according to media reports.

The Myanmar military had claimed in the past that most of the 170 weapons, including RPGs and FN6 anti-aircraft launchers – which cost between US$70,000 (106 million kyats) and US$90,000 each – it seized from the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in November 2019 are Chinese-made.

The TNLA is one of the ethnic armed groups seeking greater autonomy and is active in northern Shan State near the Chinese border. At a press conference in Naypyitaw, the vice chairman of the military’s True News, Major General Tun Tun Nyi had said, “Most of them are Chinese and the total value is high. I would say the TNLA has illegally acquired weapons from China.”

China has denied that it supplies weapons to the armed ethnic groups in Myanmar. The issue was raised with none other than President Xi Jinping during his visit to Myanmar in January. But China’s denial is treated with scepticism in Myanmar. Some believe that China is using its links with insurgent groups as a bargain chip for smooth implementation of BRI projects that seek to give Beijing entry into the Bay of Bengal and Eastern part of the Indian Ocean Region.


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