Ousting likely to disappoint Beijing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 12:00am

The removal as Myanmar's prime minister of pragmatist General Khin Nyunt is expected to be greeted with some dismay in Beijing, according to well-informed diplomatic sources.

Chinese leaders had been well aware that Khin Nyunt was in a power struggle with his hardline rival General Than Shwe and had been trying to shore up the premier's position.

Khin Nyunt came away from a trip to Beijing last month with an armful of trade deals and soft loans to boost his clout at home.

According to regional diplomats who follow Myanmar closely, Beijing was keen that Khin Nyunt remained in place, as he was seen as the best bet for maintaining stability in his country through his advocacy of albeit-glacial political reform.

Than Shwe's ultra-hardline approach was seen in Beijing as more likely to result in social unrest, diplomats said.

Beijing also backed Khin Nyunt because he was keen on developing economic ties with China. Not only is Myanmar resource-rich, but it can also provide China with access to the Indian Ocean. Than Shwe was seen in Beijing as a xenophobe.