China has remained silent over the detention of former British ambassador to Myanmar who is head of business ethics advisory group in the Southeast Asian country. The reason behind her arrest was violation of immigration laws by failing to register her change of address. Unlike others, China has not condemned the action by Military Junta which facilitates China’s access to the important Bay of Bengal.
Experts have condemned Beijing’s silence on the arrest of former envoy stating that China will not utter a word against any wrongdoing by the military junta in order to protect its interest. According to Bill Hayton, South east Asia expert from Chatham House, Beijing will tolerate whatever the regime does. Bill Hayton said the arrest of Ms Bowman “shows that the junta doesn’t care what we think of its actions. It’s stuck in its bunker listening to itself while Myanmar heads in the direction of North Korea.”
Meanwhile, Britain has expressed concern about the reported detention of Vicky Bowman, whose husband is a famous activist.The 56-year-old Bowman was the British ambassador to Myanmar from 2002-2006 and has more than three decades’ experience in Myanmar.She has most recently worked as director at the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business and is a fluent speaker of Burmese.Her husband Htein Lin is among the country’s most famous artists and a veteran activist who spent more than six years in prison for opposing an earlier junta.
China also maintained silence on Myanmar army general who was found to be involved in a massacre of civilians his soldiers committed in Kayah State on Christmas Eve in 2021, in which 35 civilians including children, women and two members of the international humanitarian group Save the Children were burned alive. International rights bodies including Human Rights Watch had criticised the general who was trained in Japan between August 2016 and March 2017.
Diplomatic experts said that while making major deals with Myanmar’s military rulers, China seemed to have violated its official guidance for investment abroad: Avoid conflict zones. Though China is fully aware of state of military affairs and widening rebellion, it continues to advance plans for a complex economic corridor in the country with the military unveiling steps to move ahead with big joint-venture projects. Cozying up to the junta puts its investments at immediate and long-term risk and erodes its standing in regional organizations.
On Military junta rule in Myanmar, China has reiterated its position that Beijing does not interfere in internal affairs of other countries. However, it has failed to pressurise the military junta on restore democracy in the country. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which China is an important country, has failed to halt the bloodshed. Last year, the ASEAN bloc agreed on a “five-point consensus”, which calls for a cessation of violence and constructive dialogue, but the junta has largely ignored it. That’s because China purposely avoided pressure on Myanmar. UN special envoy NoeleenHeyzer who recently made her first trip to Myanmar since being appointed last year and met junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and other top military officials. But she was denied a meeting with Suu Kyi, and rights groups said they had little optimism her visit would persuade the military to end its bloody crackdown and engage in dialogue with opponents of its coup.
The situation in Myanmar eroded even further by the end of July. The excesses of the State Administration Council (SAC) led by General Min Aung Hlaing have further brutalised sensitivities across the regional and global landscape. The summary executions of four political prisoners by the end of July had its effect on the ASEAN summit. They brought the focus fully back on the intransigence of the military regime and its brutality in addressing the political crisis within the country. The four prisoners were part of the pro-democracy groups who had been accused of inciting violence and carrying out terror attacks against the military by using their positions to instigate the civilian militias against the SAC.
More than 2,200 people have been killed and over 15,000 arrested in the military’s crackdown on dissent since it seized power but military junta has made little efforts to restore democracy in the country. China’s failure to acknowledge that a coup even occurred has exacerbated the backlash as has Beijing’s announced intent to block U.N. Security Council efforts to address the coup-caused crisis and its decision to sever contact with the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won Myanmar’s 2020 elections in a landslide. Already attacks have been staged on Chinese-owned factories and a natural gas pipeline critical to the economy in Yunnan Province.
To protect its interests and interest of people of Myanmar, Beijing should work selflessly and press the junta to curb its rampant violence against the population and to restore the elected government.