NAYPYITAW: 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, Licas News reported.
A military source with experience in South-East Asia confirmed that China is providing approximately 95 per cent of Arakan Army funding. He further revealed that the Arakan Army has approximately 50 of the MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems) surface-to-air missiles.
"An object lesson in diplo-terrorism is the leverage over Myanmar and India that China gained by arming the Arakan Army, operating in the corridor from North-East India over Myanmar's Chin and Rakhine states to the Indian Ocean," according to Licas News reported.
According to a source, China's strategy as one to push its influence well south of its own border. "This 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," the source said.
"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.
"China does not want Indian influence to increase in Myanmar," according to an Indian source. "They want a monopoly."
China's support of the Arakan Army against India's construction in Myanmar has been apparently quite effective.
The USD 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 an Eastern Link article by Subir Bhaumik, the more recently uncovered arms delivery from China was a "consignment containing 500 assault rifles, 30 universal machine guns, 70,000 rounds of ammunition and a huge stock of grenades ... 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, according to the article.
A diplomat in the region said that "seven different groups (including Arakan Army) in Myanmar received Chinese arms and support." He said that the "Chinese object has always been to keep the West away from Myanmar by keeping Myanmar (a) weak and closed state with a poor humanitarian record."
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).
On March 23, the Myanmar government designated the Arakan Army and ULA as terrorist organisations 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 gave a very bland statement saying "China supports all parties in Myanmar to promote reconciliation and peace talks and strongly opposes any form of violent attacks".
China does not supply weapons for free but earns money from inciting violence in Myanmar.
The Arakan Army pays China's front organisations in South-East Asia for weapons, and Thai arms smugglers front for the Chinese, according to sources.
According to Bhaumik, a former BBC reporter in Myanmar, anti-Tatmadaw sentiment in Rakhine State has been galvanised and quickly expanded through the influx of Chinese money and arms.
China is blatant in using its support for ethnic militia groups to threaten the government. When addressing local concerns about a Chinese-backed copper mine, according to Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner, a Myanmar government minister feared that Beijing could retaliate against any trouble to the mine by supporting ethnic violence that would harm Myanmar's economy.