What would it take to restore peace to Myanmar? It’s a taxing question because Myanmar, much like another global flash point Taiwan, could trigger a serious world war.
To predict any kind of future for Myanmar we have to look to China and its influence, not just in Myanmar, but across the region.
Half a century ago China was an economic basket-case, but after a long period of economic stagnation today China is second only to the United States and its on tract to take over the leadership. We are living in times when China is a formidable power and it is looking to increase its interests.
Myanmar is crucial to China. Since 1989 the Chinese have supplied Myanmar with military equipment, which includes jet fighters, armoured vehicles and training for the Burmese Army. China’s ambitions extend beyond the Bay of Bengal to the Pacific and the Indian Oceans.
The Myanmar military and its location are a significant investment in China’s ambitions. Access to Myanmar’s ports is essential to China’s future and the current junta is happily serving China’s interests. Indeed, since the coup China has prioritised its economic investment in Myanmar. This includes a $2.5 billion gas fired power plant that will be 80% owned and operated by the Chinese. Added to this China has promised to build dams, a high- speed rail and a deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu. This would enable China’s access to the Indian Ocean and well beyond.
China’s plans are to reduce its dependence on other countries such as Australia and the Middle East. As for Myanmar, China is increasing its relationship with the junta while as the same time creating a massive debt-trap for the Myanmar people.
Numerous commentators suggest that China is planning for a war, whereby Myanmar and its new infrastructures would be crucial to China’s strategic position in the region.
Many refugees dream of returning to their Myanmar home, but the truth is the junta are not going to welcome them or provide them with any legal rights. The Chinese are more likely to imprison returning refugees because the majority of them are Muslims.
As of 2022 China was reported to have imprisoned 1.8 million Muslims in secret internment camps in China, most of the prisoners appear to be Uyghurs, but also included are Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic Turkic Muslims. Some Christians and some foreign citizens including Kazakhstanis, have also been imprisoned. With the Chinese in control of Myanmar, there is little hope for the safety of Muslims.
The world condemns the Myanmar junta for its ongoing genocide of the Rohingya people, but even a conviction in the International criminal court is not going to alter the geo-politics as it is currently being played out. Myanmar lives with arms embargoes from the several nations, but these countries are allegedly still doing business in Myanmar.
Accountability for the atrocities and protection of refugees is unlikely to be high on China’s agenda and therefore given little credence from the Myanmar government, now or later.
A new Myanmar is invariably going to be Chinese dominated. I can’t see this being a safe haven for Muslims or Christians.