China under US pressure to condemn Myanmar military coup

Teddy Ng
·3-min read

The United States will continue to press China for a clear condemnation of the military coup in Myanmar, as Beijing tries to distance itself from the chaos in the Southeast Asian nation.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday that China should play a “constructive role” in Myanmar, which was experiencing what he described as an assault on the country’s transition to democracy.

“When it comes to China, we have been clear that we would like to see China play a constructive role in this. And that is a message that we have sent both publicly and privately to Beijing, and it’s a message that we’ll continue to send until China is clear in its condemnation of this coup,” he said.

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Price’s remarks came as China’s ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai dismissed claims that Beijing was aiding a military coup in the nation, days after hundreds of pro-democracy protesters demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy.

Chen said Beijing had no “prior knowledge” of the coup and insisted rumours it was helping the military junta set up a firewall to prevent protesters from organising online were “laughable”.

“We have friendly relations with both the National League for Democracy and the military. The current situation is absolutely not what China wants to see,” Chen said, according to the transcript of a group interview with Myanmar media, which was posted to the embassy’s website on Tuesday.

On February 1, Myanmar’s military invalidated the results of the country’s November election – which saw a large victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD) party – and placed key officials, including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and president Win Myint, under house arrest. A year-long state of emergency was also declared.

While the international community rushed to condemn the coup, China and Russia used their veto power as permanent members of the UN Security Council to block a joint statement condemning the military junta.

Suu Kyi’s lawyer said on Tuesday police had filed a new charge against her, accusing her of violating coronavirus restrictions. Suu Kyi was already facing a charge of illegally possessing walkie-talkies.

“I think it’s fair to say that we are disturbed by reports that the military has charged State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi with additional criminal acts,” Price said.

“The military seizure of power is a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law. We have been heartened that so many of our like-minded partners and allies around the world have joined us in condemning this anti-democratic action, this coup.”

Advantage China, as democracy slides from view in Southeast Asia

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said any new charges against Suu Kyi would not change the world body’s “firm denunciation” of the military overturning the “democratic will of the people” and arresting political leaders, activists and peaceful protesters.

“We have called for charges against her to be dropped, for her to be released,” he said.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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