Thein Sein in China: Is Beijing’s intervention key for return to normalcy?

Amid Myanmar's conflicts, Naypyitaw discusses with Beijing a plan for a military-backed "civilian" government, potentially through upcoming elections, following talks with former president Thein Sein in China.

Amid escalating conflicts in Myanmar, with rebel groups and the People’s Defence Force (PDF) launching attacks against the Myanmar military junta from all sides, Naypyitaw appears to be strategizing to establish a quasi-civilian government similar to what was done post the 2010 elections. Reports suggest that junta leaders are engaging in discussions with Chinese leadership in Beijing to devise a plan that would facilitate elections in November and help set up a military supported “civilian” government.

The visit of former president Thein Sein to Beijing on Saturday is believed to have conveyed these messages to the Chinese leadership. China is already perceived to be a part of the plan, aiming to help the military junta restore some normalcy in Myanmar and regain some of its lost influence through an electoral process.

The visit by Thein Sein (79) who served as president of Myanmar from 2011 to 2016 and is a former military general comes at a time when Myanmar’s present leader Min Aung Hlaing has been under tremendous pressure not just from the rebel attacks on the Burmese military, but also the spadework that he needs to do keep countries like China on his side.

While specific details of the meeting remain undisclosed, sources indicated that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had in-depth discussions regarding the current security situation in Myanmar, particularly focusing on developments in northern Shan and the Rakhine state.

China has significant investments in Rakhine as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, including oil and gas drilling operations and efforts to build connectivity to the Indian Ocean through Myanmar.

Media reports have mentioned that Beijing has expressed its readiness to collaborate with Naypyidaw to promote a shared future between the neighboring countries during the meeting with former President Thein Sein. “China is willing to work with Myanmar to make new efforts to implement the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and promote the building of a China-Myanmar community with a shared future,” said Wang Yi.

A delegation led by former President Thein Sein attended the 70th Anniversary of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence conference from June 27-30. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech at the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence conference on June 28.

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