Sunday, May 21, 2017

Interview with Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Mr. Hong Liang

May 20, 2017
A wide-ranging interview with the Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Mr. Hong Liang by the Global New Light of Myanmar and MITV touched upon democratic and economic reform, peace process and bilateral relations between Myanmar and China.

Q: I would like to know your impression, according to your diplomatic career and international experience, on Myanmar’s transition to democracy and the tangible results of this process.

A: Myanmar started the democratization process in 2010. Actually before that, a lot of preparation work had been done. We were very glad to see in the year 2015 the general election was quite successful. In the year 2016, we also witnessed a very peaceful and smooth transition of power from the former administration to the current administration. We are glad to see Myanmar right now is undergoing domestic reform and opening up to the world.

This is a great achievement for the democratization process for Myanmar, I think, the credit should firstly be given to the Myanmar people, and the contributions by the major political parties including the Tatmataw, are also very critical to the success of the transition. As we know, democracy means to have a government by the people, of the people and for the people, which is the common sense and common value for all the nations. However for a particular country, it has its own particular national conditions. Every country should pursue its own democratization process in line with its own national conditions. There is no exception, as you know, for all the countries on that process. We hope Myanmar will achieve success in searching for its own democratization process in line with Myanmar’s own national condition.

To realize national reconciliation is the most important task in Myanmar democratization process. In my view, national reconciliation in Myanmar consists of two parts:

The first part is the reconciliation among major political parties including Tatmadaw. The second part is the reconciliation among the ethnic armed groups, the government and the Tatmataw. The two reconciliations are very essential for the success of the national reconciliation in Myanmar.

We are very glad to see that the NLD Government is taking a quite inclusive approach to push forward the national reconciliation, which is widely applauded by the Myanmar people and the international community. We are aware that in the course of the democratization process, Myanmar is still facing a lot of challenges and difficulties. But we believe that there is a will there is a way. China as a close neighbor to Myanmar, we will play our role to help Myanmar have a success.

Q: Along the transition to democracy, you mentioned about Myanmar’s peace process, from war to peace, and also China’s commitment to peace process. Could you elaborate more on China’s support for Myanmar peace process?

A: Myanmar is facing two major issues: one is peace, another is development of its economy. In the region of conflicts, peace is the priority concern of the local people; But for other areas, economic development is the major concern of that part of the people. In my view, peace process and economic development are equally important for Myanmar. Without peace, development will lose its ground; Without development, peace will not be sustainable. So peace and development should walk together hand in hand and reinforce each other. Peace process in Myanmar have already achieved some progress, with 8 Ethnic Armed Groups (EAG) having already signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). It is our expectation in the near future more EAGs will sign the NCA, and we are also glad to see the First 21st Century Panlong Peace Conference held last year was a success. We expect the Second 21st Century Panlong Peace Conference will be another success.

Peace process is actually a process of the parties concerned building up mutual understanding and mutual trust. It is not simply an issue of laying down the weapons or giving up confrontation. As H.E State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said very clearly, when we are at the peace process, everyone needs to consider what you can give rather than what you can take. That means to give is more important than to take. I think this idea is very important for us to push forward the peace process. That means when we are taking account of our own concerns, we have to take account of others’ concerns. We should accommodate each other. Only in this way, can we build up mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual confidence, and then peace will be on the way approaching us.

Inclusiveness is very critical to the success of the peace process, no party should be neglected or left out in this reconciliation course. Dialogue in whatever form is the first step to enhance mutual understanding and mutual trust. Especially for those non-signatories of NCA, dialogue is more important.

We don’t think it is realistic to put preconditions for dialogue. Dialogue should not be sabotaged by any preconditions. As for those signatories of NCA, it is imperative for the local people to see the lowering fruits of the peace process, they wish to benefit from that process, improvement of their livelihood and economic development, which is the work for government to do in the future. The economic development in the areas of the NCA signatories, will set a good example for the non-signatories, and encourage them to give a positive consideration to join in the NCA.

Q: Could you talk about the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation recently held in Beijing? What is your prospects for the future China-Myanmar cooperation?

A: The BRF was very successful. We really appreciate the support from the government of Myanmar, especially from H.E State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who attended the Forum and had very good talks with Chinese leaders H.E.President Xi Jinping and H.E.Premier Li Keqiang. As H.E.President Xi Jinping said very clearly that the Belt and Road firstly should be the road for peace and then road for prosperity. I think we share many common views on how we cooperate on the Belt and Road Initiative. I would like to say more words about peace. Peace process is not just a grave concern of Myanmar but also a grave concern of China, because in the past years, China suffered a lot from the conflicts in the northern part of Myanmar. The conflicts in the Northern part of Myanmar impose serious threat to the peace and stability in China-Myanmar border areas. I think you have noticed a lot of reports that when the conflicts broke out bullets and shells flying from the Myanmar side to the Chinese side on many occasions. Many Chinese lost their lives or were injured. We are very concerned about that. So the peace process is not just at the price for Myanmar people, but also at the price for Chinese people.

When the conflicts came out, a lot of Myanmar people fled to the Chinese side. But anyway, we have given them a very good treatment, because they are our Paukphaw brothers. We gave them a very good arrangement for resettlements.

Chinese Government supports the Myanmar Government in pushing forward the peace process in an inclusive manner, and we expect that the peace could be realized in the spirit of Panglong Conference. In our view, the spirit of the Panglong conference means the peace process can only be achieved through negotiations in a peaceful way, rather than by force or by any forms of confrontation, and we hope that the Ethnic Armed Groups’ requests should be sensible and their sensible requests should be given due consideration and respect.

According to the need of the Myanmar side, the Chinese Government has appointed a special envoy to help Myanmar Government, to facilitate and promote the dialogue among the EAGs, the Myanmar Government and the Tatmadaw.

In the meantime, Chinese Government and Myanmar Government have initiated a new mechanism i.e. 2+2 High-Level Consultation which is headed by the senior representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the military of our two countries. We already have two rounds of effective consultations. This mechanism is mainly focusing on maintaining the peace and stability of our border and also to promote the cooperation between Chinese side and Myanmar side in Myanmar peace process, especially for the northern part of Myanmar.

Chinese Government is working very hard with relevant parties on the resumption of talks between the EAGs in the northern part of Myanmar and the Myanmar Government and Tatmadaw. Also we are urging the EAGs in the north to actively and positively participate in the peace process, and we also suggested them to give a consideration to sign the NCA at an early date. In the meantime, the Chinese Government also suggested to the Myanmar Government and Tatmadaw to take more flexible approach in addressing the concerns of relevant EAGs in the north, trying your best to persuade the EAGs to give positive consideration on signing NCA.

At the present stage, the urgent task for Chinese Government is to prevent the conflict in China-Myanmar border areas. In this regard, the Chinese side is keeping close communication with relevant parties, including EAGs and also the Tatmadaw, we hope them exercise restraint. Meanwhile, China has to keep the military presence along our border just in case of any emergency.

Q: Could you tell me plans to strengthening economic cooperation between our two countries? I also would like to know about the cooperation agreements signed during BRF.

A: Five agreements have been signed between our two countries in BRF, namely MOU on Cooperation within the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, MOU on Health Cooperation, MOU on the Establishment of China-Myanmar Border Economic Cooperation Zone, MOU on Cooperation in Post-quake Restoration and Protection of Historic Monuments of Bagan, and Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation by which China will give a new batch of grant to Myanmar. These agreements are very important for our future cooperation, covering various areas.

Friendship, especially people to people friendship, is very important for our future cooperation, which is fundamental ground for our cooperation. As H.E State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, Myanmar and China are close neighbors, we cannot move away from each other and have to be good friends. China and Myanmar share a very long border and a lot of ethnic groups living across the border, who are brothers and sisters. That’s why we call each other Paukphaw. This is a very important common asset between China and Myanmar. We have to cherish it and hold it very dearly in our hearts and pass it on to the following generations to come. Last year, the Chinese Embassy together with the local communities in Myanmar celebrated the first Paukphaw Friendship Day in Yangon on June 8th which is the date for establishment of our diplomatic relations. Next month, we will celebrate the second China-Myanmar Paukphaw Friendship Day in Yangon. We hope this event will continue in the future.

In order to further enhance our people to people friendship, China-Myanmar cooperation should focus on the people’s interests. China-Myanmar cooperation should be people’s interest oriented. We have to meet the demand of the Myanmar people, such as education and training, public health, poverty reduction and eradication, youth and cultural exchange programs, disaster prevention and relief, environment protection, and of course the peace process.

Chinese Government is encouraging Chinese companies in Myanmar to actively deliver more social responsibilities. We think they have to be part of Myanmar community, living in harmony with local community to get understanding and support of the local people. More and more Chinese companies are very keen on delivering their social responsibilities. I still remember in the year 2015 when I started portfolio as ambassador here, serious floods hit Myanmar and a lot of Chinese companies extended their helping hands to the local communities, which were warmly received by the local people. We hope in the future more such kind of activities will be delivered. The Chinese companies investing in Myanmar are not only contributing to economic development, but also social development of Myanmar.

Another important sector for our friendship is Buddism. Buddism is a very important ingredient to Myanmar culture and Chinese culture. The Budda tooth relics visited Myanmar four times. The exchange programs in the area of Buddism is very important to strengthen our people to people understanding and friendship. Our two governments have agreed to cooperate on restoration and repairing of pagodas in Bagan, which is very significant and will further enhance friendship between our two peoples.

The role played by the Media is also critical to the friendship between our two peoples. Myanmar now is a very open society, with a lot of different voices. We hope that as a responsible media, we should give the right information and correct view to the people, to help them have a good understanding of our relations and friendship. This is very essential for a smooth development of our bilateral relations.

Q: What is your additional thoughts for further cooperation of bilateral relations between Myanmar and China?

A: Just now, we talked about Myanmar’s economic development and how China could help the Myanmar economic development. I think we can do a lot in the future, because Myanmar is still a developing country. Economic development is the key to address those fundamental issues in Myanmar. It will not only improve the welfare of the people, but also it will make a great contribution to facilitate the peace process in Myanmar. As I say peace and development could reinforce each other, it could help each other.

China right now is the largest trading partner for Myanmar, and also the largest foreign investor in Myanmar. China is very keen in helping Myanmar develop its economy and actually we do have the resources, we do have the capacity to help Myanmar develop its economy. As you know, China right now is the second largest economy in the World and is still maintaining a quite fast growth. Myanmar is a close neighbor to China. We think that Myanmar should make full advantage of the geographical proximity with China, to benefit from the China’s development, to share our developments and achievements. This is the opportunity for Myanmar which should not be missed. Now China and Myanmar will work together on the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. As I said the Belt and Road firstly should be road for peace, and secondly it should be for common development and regional prosperity. This is another opportunity for Myanmar’s economic development.

Several key areas deserve our attention for China to help Myanmar achieve its economic development, such as agriculture and rural development, industrialization and urbanization in Myanmar, transportation and logistics system, energy and electricity generation, special economic zones in Myanmar, especially Kyauk-phyu SEZ, which we will work closely with Myanmar, and China-Myanmar Border Economic Cooperation Zone, which we have already signed the MOU during BRF.

In the course of helping Myanmar develop its economy, the Chinese government encourages Chinese companies to work together with the local companies and other international companies investing here in Myanmar, because we hope that Chinese companies, Myanmar companies and other international companies could cooperate with each other in search for a win-win situation. All participants in Myanmar development should benefit from each other. Only in this way, we can realize sustainable development of Myanmar economy and also sustainable development of Chinese companies here in Myanmar.


Ref; The Global New Light of Myanmar

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