China ships Covid aid to Myanmar rebels
News Desk || shiningbd
Analysts say Beijing will continue involving itself in areas where the writ of the Myanmar state runs thin, with widespread distrust keeping many away from healthcare in junta-controlled territory.
Delivering vaccines to Myanmar's junta, but also to rebel groups that are the generals' sworn enemies, China is playing both sides to fight the coronavirus and strengthen its hand in the messy politics of its southern neighbour.
Beijing has already handed over nearly 13 million doses to the generals, who ousted Aung San Suu Kyi in February and plunged Myanmar and its healthcare system into chaos.
The junta has appeared powerless to halt the spread of the virus, spooking authorities on the other side of its porous, 2,000-kilometre frontier with China, where officials are waging a "zero case" war on Covid-19.
So Beijing has quietly shipped thousands of vaccines, medical workers, and construction materials for quarantine centres, multiple rebel groups told AFP.
Chinese Red Cross staff "come to help us sometimes... to help us prevent the Covid pandemic," said Colonel Naw Bu, spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
"But they did not come to stay here," added the colonel, whose group -- numbering thousands -- controls territory in Myanmar's northern jade-rich hills.
"They just came for a while and went back."
The KIA is one of Myanmar's more than 20 ethnic rebel groups -- many of whom control swathes of remote border territory -- who have fought each other and the military over the drugs trade, natural resources and autonomy.
But they are all vulnerable to Covid.
As a third wave ripped through lowland Myanmar in July, the KIA inoculated 10,000 people in their Laiza headquarters with Chinese jabs, Naw Bu said.
Health workers had also crossed over from China to deliver masks and hand sanitiser, he added.
It is a scene familiar along the porous border.
The Shan State Progress Party rebel group has vaccinated 1,000 people in areas under its control with Chinese vaccines, a spokesperson told AFP.
It had ordered a total of half a million, he added.
"Good neighbour" China had also promised to supply doses to the Ta'ang National Liberation Army, based in nearby territory, spokesman Brigadier General Tar Phone Kyaw told AFP. AFP