Friday, 24 February 2012

China calls on Burma to ensure border security

The Chinese government, in a rare if subtle criticism of a regional ally, has called on the Burmese government to tighten controls at their joint border after a rise in the number of refugees fleeing into China.

A senior Foreign Ministry official, Jia Qinglin, told the visiting Speaker of Myanmar's lower house that Beijing “sincerely hopes Myanmar will find a peaceful way to appropriately resolve problems with ethnic reconciliation and will protect the long-term peace and stability of the China-Myanmar border region”.

The coded put-down is rare for China, which regularly insists on its policy of non-interference into the affairs of other states. It follows attacks on Chinese shipping along the upper Mekong near the Burmese border last December, as well as a sharp increase in the number of ethnic Kachin refugees fleeing Burma amid fighting between ethnic rebels and the army.

Up to 10,000 refugees, mostly Kachin, have flooded across the porous border in recent months, according to local aid groups. They are now encamped in makeshift tent cities on the Chinese side of the border. Beijing denies the existence of the refugees, who are seen as an embarrassing testimony to the inability of China's ally to pacify its border regions.

Fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese military flared up last June after a 17-year ceasefire broke down. The poorly policed border regions are easy territory for the rebels, who are fighting for greater autonomy from the Burmese government.

China's criticism may herald greater collaboration between the two countries on border security, especially if Beijing continues to feel that Burma is unable to handle the situation itself.

Sources: Reuters, AFP

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