Myanmar is hosting the first regional meeting since the military takeover

BANGKOK: MyanmarRussia’s military government on Monday hosted the first high-level regional meeting since the military took power last year with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi and colleagues from the Mekong Delta nations.
State broadcaster MRTV reported that Wang met with his counterparts from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam at the meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Group held under the theme “Solidarity for Peace and Prosperity” in the central city of Bagan, the world UNESCO heritage site.
A television report showed Wang and other foreign ministers bumping elbows in solidarity before the meeting began, but gave no further details.
The group is a China-led initiative that includes Mekong Delta countries, a potential source of regional tension due to a growing number of hydroelectric projects that are altering the flow and raising concerns about environmental damage. China has built 10 dams along the upper reaches of the Mekong, the part it calls the Lancang.
China has been criticized for dams upstream of the Mekong River, which affect water levels and downstream fisheries that are important to the economies of several Southeast Asian countries.
Military government spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said last Friday that ministers are expected to sign several agreements. He said the presence of the foreign ministers was a recognition of the sovereignty of Myanmar and its government.
China is Myanmar’s largest trading partner and an old ally. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in Myanmar’s mines, oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructure, and is its main arms supplier, as is Russia.
Many in Myanmar suspect China of backing the military takeover, and Beijing has refused to condemn the military’s power grab. China claims to follow a policy of non-interference in the affairs of other countries.
Myanmar’s shadow government of national unity, which opposes the ruling military council, protested the meeting in Bagan, saying any such effort in partnership with Myanmar’s military violates the will of the people and undermines community building.
It said holding the meeting in Myanmar was in direct conflict with the peace plan of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Myanmar’s rulers have blocked ASEAN efforts to arrange a meeting with ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was recently moved to solitary confinement.
Suu Kyi’s ouster in February 2021 sparked widespread peaceful protests that soon turned into armed resistance, and the country descended into what some UN experts characterized as a civil war.
A statement from China’s foreign ministry said Wang met on Sunday with Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon, who is also ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar.
The statement said Wang told Prak Seokhon that China looked forward to working with ASEAN to push Myanmar to pursue political reconciliation and encourage it to restart the process of democratic transition and realize the vision of returning power to the people. . It said China supports Myanmar in exploring a development path that suits its own national conditions.
State-run newspaper Myanma Alinn Daily reported that Wang also met on Sunday with Myanmar’s foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin to discuss the implementation of bilateral projects and closer cooperation.
Wang told Wunna Maung Lwin that China will help Myanmar protect its legitimate interests and national dignity on the international stage, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

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