Li urges Myanmar to ensure projects
Updated: 2012-06-14 08:10
By Li Xiaokun and Zhou Wa (China Daily)
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday urged Myanmar to ensure the smooth implementation of some major cooperation projects between the two neighbors and protect the legitimate interests of Chinese companies.
Li's remarks came against the background of Myanmar President Thein Sein's abrupt decision to call off the construction of a $3.6 billion Chinese-led dam project in his country last August.
"The two sides should adhere to the principle of equal treatment, eliminate interferences and properly handle problems," Li told Myanmar's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin as they met at Zhongnanhai, the central government compound.
China called for talks with Myanmar after the government suspended the dam project in Myitsone, Myanmar's largest hydropower project, citing complaints from local residents and opposition parties.
Myanmar's then military government proposed the dam in 2006 and signed a contract in 2009 with the Myanmar Asia World Company and China Power Investment Corp to build it.
Wunna Maung Lwin said his country attaches great importance to the ties with China and cherishes the close friendship.
He also said Myanmar will "actively push forward cooperation on major projects and continue to support China on issues concerning China's key interests", according to a news release from Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Myanmar's top diplomat is paying an official visit to China from Saturday to Thursday, as the guest of Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
Zhang Xuegang, an expert on Southeast Asian studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Li's remarks should not be interpreted as being directed only at the dam project but also at pushing for Myanmar to build a healthy investment environment for Chinese enterprises.
The Chinese mainland is currently the largest investor in Myanmar, having dedicated $13.95 billion as of April, according to the Myanmar embassy.
Among the large ongoing projects between the two is the 2,000-kilometer gas pipeline that runs through the heart of Myanmar and ends at Kunming in southwestern China's Yunnan province.
The dam is only a single case, but reflected deeply-rooted problems, according to Zhang. "In this case Myanmar should at least communicate with China and avoid sudden changes on such a big project."
And Myanmar should compensate China if it cannot fulfill the signed agreements, the analyst said.
Zheng Hao, a commentator for Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, said in his program that originally the dam was set to give a boost to the local economy and people's livelihoods.
"But due to various reasons, including domestic political factors and moves of the West behind the scenes, Myanmar changed its mind, casting a shadow over cooperation with China," he said.
In the talks on Wednesday, Li also noted that it is very important to consolidate ties between Beijing and Nay Pyi Taw as "profound and complex changes are taking place in regional and international situation".
Zhang said both China and Myanmar should adjust and deepen ties, as Myanmar has recently improved its relationship with other parties including the US and other Western countries, India and Southeast Asian countries.
In Myanmar on Wednesday, heavy rain brought an uneasy calm to the country after five days of deadly sectarian strife, though residents said they were still too afraid to sleep at night and faced a new problem of food shortages.
A state of emergency has been declared in the country's western Rakhine state, which has been rocked by a wave of rioting and arson, posing a major test for the reformist government which took power last year.
Thein Sein said on Tuesday the incidents should be seen against the backcloth of deep and complicated issues.
He insisted that the government can still afford to aid those who have lost houses and properties.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said on Wednesday at a regular news briefing that China supports the efforts made by the Myanmar government to maintain domestic stability and ethnic harmony.
The unrest in Myanmar was triggered by the rape and murder last month of a Buddhist woman, allegedly by three Muslims, and the June 3 lynching of 10 Muslims in apparent retaliation.
Contact the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
AP and AFP contributed to this story.
(China Daily 06/14/2012 page11)