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China’s Autonomous Regions eyed as model for Burmese ethnic areas?

Jul 14, 2009

Leaders of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China have visited Myanmar to brief military government officials on the Chinese experience of creating autonomous regions for ethnic minority groups.

The state-backed newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, reported on Saturday that the Burmese Prime Minister met with Guo Shengkum, the chairman of the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress and secretary of the Communist Party of China in Guangxi Zhuang, in Naypyidaw on Friday.

Guangxi, in the southern region, is one of five autonomous regions in China and the one for the Zhuang ethnic minority. An autonomous region is designated, when a minority entity represents a majority in a particular area.

Analysts said that Chinese officials visited Myanmar to describe to government officials the structure of an autonomous region, with the view that a similar model could be used in Burma’s ethnic areas.

“I think the trip is more than just bilateral relations,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst based on the Sino-Burmese border. “The Burmese generals may want to learn about the Chinese experience as the junta is faced with fresh problems created by ceasefire groups, who don’t want to take part in the junta’s border guard force plan.”

The No. 2 ranking general, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, also visited China in June. One of the agenda items on Maung Aye’s trip was believed to be ethnic issues along the Sino-Burmese border.

According to diplomatic sources, Chinese leaders presented their views on Myanmar’s national reconciliation process, including a peaceful resolution of ethnic minority group problems along the Sino-Burmese border.

In April, the junta ordered all ethnic ceasefire armed groups to transform their armies into a Border Guard Force, to operate under the Burmese army. However, except for the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and some smaller groups, armed ceasefire groups, including the largest non-state armed group, the United Wa State Army, have refused to take part. The deadline was June 30.

Before the deadline, Lt-Gen Ye Myint, the secretary of the Transformation Committee for the Border Guard Force, visited the Wa, Kokang and Mongla regions to promote the plan.

Again last week, Burmese officials reportedly met with representative from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State.

Analysts said that the junta has not coerced or openly threatened the uncooperative armed groups, possible because Beijing warned the generals it would not be an effective approach.

In December 2008, Wa and Kachin leaders sent a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Primer Wen Jiabao. The letter outlined the ethnic dilemma in Myanmar as it relates to the 2008 constitution.

In part, the letter said: “We solemnly ask the Chinese government to relay our request to the Myanmar government: First, we support the constitutional reform. When the new government forms in 2010, the leadership based on national public election should promise to leaders of the autonomous states [that they] will be part of the high leadership of the new government… [and] build upon the method of management of China’s autonomous region. ”

Wen Jiao, a Chinese expert, wrote in the influential journal, Foreign Policy, on Friday that Chinese leaders fear unstable neighbouring governments and the threat of an influx of refugees.

“So the calculus behind China's regional security strategy is straightforward: if peace and prosperity among China's neighbours are not secured, then peace, prosperity and unity at home will be put at risk,” Wen Jiao wrote.

Maung Aye, the commander-in-chief of the Burmese army, visited the Sino-Burmese border on Saturday. The state-media reported that he was there to inspect the Muse 105th border trade zone, but there has been rising tension in the area between ethnic groups and the Burmese army.

Source: Irrawaddy Newsletter

China’s Autonomous Regions eyed as model for Burmese ethnic areas?
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