Chinese premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Burma next month where he could meet Burmese junta chief Than Shwe and other top brass, Japanese media has reported.
Sources interviewed by the Asahi Shimbun news agency said that the trip was to “demonstrate Beijing’s support for the military regime”, although China is likely to remain coy about openly supporting controversial Burmese elections later this year.
The reports follow the signing of a deal between China and Burma that will see a road being constructed from eastern Burma to China’s southern Yunnan province, entering the country at Ruili, a town which sits across the border from Burma’s northeastern Shan state.
The China-Myanmar Corridor Project will act as an important facilitator of the burgeoning bilateral trade between the two countries. Construction of a series of pipelines across Burma is already underway that will pump Burmese gas and Middle Eastern oil offloaded in the Bay of Bengal to southwestern China.
The multi-billion dollar project has been condemned by rights groups who claim that it has caused widespread displacement and increased militarisation along the route of the pipeline.
The coordinator of the anti-pipeline Shwe Gas Movement, Wong Aung, said that the Corridor Project is part of the strategic plan for the gas pipeline project.
“We see the Chinese government has increased border trade in cooperation with the Burmese government compared to last year. Also there was an increase in profit of billions of dollars.”
A Chinese delegation, including transport minister Li Shenglin and China’s ambassador to Burma, Ye Dabo, arrived in the Burmese capital of Naypyidaw on 18 May to sign the agreement, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.
Bilateral trade between the two countries reached $US264 million in February this year alone, up 92 percent year on year, according to the Xinhua news agency. Of that, $US215 million was Chinese exports to Burma.
Khine Win Aung said that “we will feed as much information as we can to Chinese nationals about the damage to the people because of the Chinese government’s investment [in Burma]. We aim to get international cooperation on this to withdraw their shares from such projects.”