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Rohingya Muslims

Aung San Suu Kyi to visit China as international criticism over response to Rohingya crisis grows

Myanmese leader to travel to Beijing after nations promise closer cooperation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 November, 2017, 12:58pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 November, 2017, 11:24pm

Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi will visit Beijing later this week, as China offers her a political and economic haven from a storm of global criticism over her country’s handling of the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor and foreign minister, will attend the Chinese Communist Party’s in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting from Thursday until Sunday and hold bilateral talks with her Chinese counterparts, state-run Myanmar News Agency reported on Monday.

Her visit comes just days after China’s president, Xi Jinping, and military leaders hosted Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was also in Naypyidaw last week proposing a “three-step” solution to the Rohingya refugee issue in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.

More than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since August to escape conflict with Myanmar’s military.

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The West has accused Myanmar’s government of “ethnic cleansing” and strongly criticised Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi for not stopping the violence.

But China has supported the Southeast Asian country, drawing the neighbours closer.

Beijing threw its weight behind Naypyidaw’s claim that it was conducting a counter-insurgency operation in response to Rohingya militant attacks on security posts. China also prevented the United Nations Security Council from drafting a resolution against Myanmar.

Observers said the recent high-level interactions between China and Myanmar indicated that political trust between the countries had reached a new high.

Xu Liping, a Southeast Asia specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the West had been one-sided, offering only criticism and threats of sanctions.

“But China acted very differently, which won [Suu Kyi’s] trust,” Xu said. “China is more proactively taking part in regional issues. This could promote bilateral economic cooperation.”

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Suu Kyi last visited Beijing in May for a forum on Xi’s signature “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Myanmar is an important part of the massive infrastructure and trade push, with Rakhine being the start of the multibillion-dollar China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.

In October a Chinese state-owned consortium acquired 70 per cent ownership of the Kyaukphyu deep seaport project in Rakhine, where oil and gas pipelines already link the state to China. About US$10 billion in Chinese investment has already been earmarked for the port, an industrial park and a special economic zone.

“Suu Kyi will probably ask for more Chinese investment in Myanmar, which could benefit local economic development,” Xu said.