Media reports published recently in Myanmar have alleged that China is supplying funds and sophisticated weaponry to armed groups in Myanmar and the Naypyitaw-designated terrorist group, the Arakan Army, to have leverage over Myanmar and India.
According to a military source, China is providing approximately 95 per cent of Arakan Army funding. The source further revealed that the Arakan Army has approximately 50 of the MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems) surface-to-air missiles.
The source said that China’s strategy of supporting the Arakan Army has enabled the Chinese to expand its area of influence towards western Myanmar that is, the India-Myanmar border.
Arakan Army is the largest insurgent group in the Rakhine state of Myanmar and is the armed wing of the political party, United League of Arakan (ULA).
“China is playing a multi-dimensional game in South Asia. China wants to weaken India. India is in a war with Pakistan and does not want to make a new enemy of Myanmar,” said an Australian academic.
According to an Indian source, “China does not want Indian influence to increase in Myanmar.” “They want a monopoly.”
China’s support of the Arakan Army against India’s construction in Myanmar has been quite effective.
The $220 million road contract was awarded to the Delhi-based contractor, C&C Constructions, in June 2017. The Myanmar government then delayed the requisite clearances until January 2018. Once construction was underway, the Arakan Army kidnapped crews including Indian citizens, firefighters, a Myanmar member of parliament and sabotaged a vehicle and building materials.
According to media reports, China had earlier this year, managed to bring in a huge consignment of weapons and ammunition through Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts to Myanmar. A consignment containing 500 assault rifles, 30 Universal Machine Guns, 70,000 rounds of ammunition and a huge stock of grenades were brought in by sea and offloaded at the Monakhali beach not far from the coastal junction of Myanmar and Bangladesh in the third week of February.
A Rakhine source close to the Arakan Army claimed that the shipment included FN-6 Chinese MANPADS.
A diplomat in the region said that “seven different groups (including Arakan Army) in Myanmar received Chinese arms and support.”
On March 23, the Myanmar government designated the Arakan Army and ULA as terrorist organizations for “inciting fear” and disrupting the stability of the country by attacking government and civilian targets.
In 2019, the group allegedly attacked four police stations, causing 20 casualties among police. Some of the police died from their wounds.
China did not condemn the attack but said, “China supports all parties in Myanmar to promote reconciliation and peace talks and strongly opposes any form of violent attacks”.