Myanmar’s opposition foreign minister urges China to stop ‘arms deals’ with ruling junta

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The opposition in Myanmar has called on China to stop providing arms to the ruling military junta, saying the regime is using them to “kill their own people and civilians”.
“We are trying to encourage our neighbouring country, please do not support the military junta, not just only in business or financially, but also in terms of providing arms deals,” said Zin Mar Aung, foreign minister of the National Unity Government of Myanmar, during an interview in Brussels.
The NUG claims to be Myanmar’s official government-in-exile, representing the elected civilian government previously led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and ousted in a 2021 coup.
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Zin Mar Aung said her government had written to Beijing to convey this request officially and received an acknowledgement of receipt but no substantive reply.
“If a country supports the military junta, they are supporting [it] to kill their own people and civilians,” she told the Post during a trip on which she sought to encourage the European Union to ratchet up sanctions against the regime.
On Friday, the bloc renewed restrictive measures on numerous individuals and entities in Myanmar for another year.
Reports have suggested China is one of the Myanmese junta’s main military backers.
A United Nations report last year said the junta had imported at least US$1 billion in arms since the coup, with much of that coming from individuals and businesses in Russia, China and Singapore.
Myanmar has been embroiled in conflict since the NUG’s ousting. Earlier this month, the opposition group claimed responsibility for a mass-drone attack in Naypyidaw, the country’s capital. Zin Mar Aung vowed more attacks.
“Of course,” she replied when asked whether more drone assaults would be launched. “This is part of our military tactics to put pressure on the military junta.”
The West has slapped biting sanctions on the regime, while some legislative bodies, including the European Parliament and the French Senate, have recognised the NUG as Myanmar’s official government.
The junta has been excluded from political-level engagements at Asean – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – although Zin Mar Aung urged the union of 10 countries to go further and halt dialogue with Naypyidaw at all levels.
“They need to be banned and not just at a political level,” she said of the regime’s leaders. “Even though Asean has banned political representation … some other bureaucratic levels still continue. So we would like them to stop inviting [the junta].”
China, however, has maintained diplomatic ties with Myanmar’s junta.
Last November, Nong Rong, then an assistant foreign minister in Beijing, visited the country and met U Than Swe, the deputy prime minister.
A month later, U Than Swe visited Beijing and met Foreign Minister Wang Yi. According to a Chinese statement, Wang told the deputy prime minister that Myanmar should “realise domestic reconciliation as soon as possible within the constitutional framework and continue the political transition process”.
Zin Mar Aung voiced no surprise over China’s ongoing diplomatic efforts with the junta. To her, it showed a lack of confidence in the regime being able to protect Chinese investments in the country.
“Beijing is not really clearly taking sides, even though they are engaging with the military junta because of their own interests, to protect their investments,” she said.
The NUG in January published a 10-point position paper on China, describing Beijing as “a specifically important country, not only for close, profound historical ties between the two countries but also for China’s status as a global superpower”.
It pledged to back Beijing’s one-China principle as well as expand economic engagement.
“Any organisation that poses a threat to the national security of neighbouring countries shall not be permitted to establish a presence within the territory of Myanmar,” it read.
If in power, the senior NUG official said, her government would guarantee all Chinese investments in the country.

 

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