Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Burmese factor in Thai-Sino relations

The Burmese factor in Thai-Sino relations

Burma has been acting with alacrity in the past few days with a two-pronged offensive - to disrupt the Thai-Burma border, and to drive a wedge in Thai-Chinese cooperation on Burma.

The attacks on the Karen National Union along the Thai-Burma border beginning last week fit in with the pattern established in the past two decades. These onslaughts will cause concern among the Thai security forces about the influx of refugees and disrupt border trade. Indeed, they were timed to create maximum chaos among Thai decision-makers. This armed offensive, part of the comprehensive Burmese national defence strategy against Thailand, has been used time and again with satisfying success due to the predictable responses of the Thai armed forces and bureaucracy.
Whenever assertive Thai diplomacy towards Burma is in the making - this time around the Abhisit government's attitude was the case in point - the porous Thai-Burmese border immediately turns into a conflict zone. Then, Rangoon's additional pressure would be placed on trade and energy sectors.

The border attacks on minority groups would follow after wide-publicity of comments made by Thai officials or politicians on the negative impact if Thai-Burmese relations were disrupted. After May 19, Rangoon did exactly that.
Thailand and China are facing a similar dilemma dealing with Burma emanating from their dependency on natural gas and resources imports and long shared common borders. China and Burma have a 2,192km border while the Thai-Burma border stretches over 2,004 km.They have been exposed to a myriad of problems, including illegal migrant workers, drugs and human trafficking. In addition, various armed minority groups are also active along the border.
In the past Burma's internal situation was a taboo in Thai-China relations. Occasionally, they took up the issue and agreed to disagree. During 2001-2006, however, Thailand's position on Burma was akin to China's - do not rock the boat. Both nations defended Burma regionally and internationally urging the international community to allow Burma to settle its own problems. They no longer walk on the Burmese side.
From Beijing's viewpoint, instability in neighbouring countries directly impact on its own security situation. Currently, four out of 14 countries sharing borders with China are in perpetual crisis and chaos or luan in Chinese. China is concerned about the possible spill-over effects of fighting against the al-Qaeda and Taleban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. With the rising tension in the Korean Peninsula in recent weeks, China is sitting near a time bomb, if it fails to convince North Korea to stand down on its nuclear missile threats.
For the first time, China has to face-off with the new regional situation - coping with two pivotal neighbours - one is strategically located giving Beijing access to two oceans and numerous logistic advantages and the other is a traditional friend and concurrently the ASEAN chair.
Soon, China will show its true colours

(Excerpt from Thailand’s The Nation).

No comments:

Post a Comment