| BEIJING, March 10
BEIJING, March 10 A Chinese oil pipeline
being built through Myanmar has not been affected by fighting
between Myanmar forces and rebels, a Chinese security official
said on Saturday, adding that China had been trying to help find
a solution to the conflict.
A 17-year-old ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Army
(KIA), one of the Myanmar's most powerful rebel groups, broke
down last June sending Kachins fleeing across the long border
with China into tent settlements.
Northern Myanmar's Kachin State is of strategic importance
to China and sustained conflict could have an impact on its
plans to use the region as a conduit for energy to its southwest
Construction of twin oil and gas pipeline from the Bay of
Bengal, through Kachin State, to China's Yunnan province is
underway and the region is home to several hydropower projects
exporting electricity to China.
"Lots of Chinese companies have invested a great deal in
Myanmar, especially in the oil pipeline which passes through the
Kachin State area," Yunnan's security chief Meng Sutie said on
the sidelines of China's annual meeting of parliament.
"As far as I know, Myanmar's central government and the
Kachin regional government have a positive, supportive attitude
towards the building of this pipeline," he added.
"At present, construction is proceeding smoothly and there
have been no outstanding problems. The Kachin government, and
the central government, have been cooperating well and
effectively with us on its building."
The KIA, seeking autonomy in Myanmar, sent a delegation to
meet Myanmar negotiators in the Yunnan border town of Ruili this
week to try to agree on terms to end the fighting that has
displaced an estimated 50,000 people.
"The Yunnan government, in accordance with a request from
the central government, is proactively pushing for both sides to
find a peaceful resolve their problems, and is proactively
engaged in mediation," Meng said.
"We are happy to see that both sides have been in contact
with each other. We are providing whatever services we can," he
added. "What we have seen is that there has been progress. But
the Kachin problem is a long-standing one."
China told Myanmar last month to better secure the border
but it denies the existence of the refugees, who are an
embarrassment to a government which enjoys close ties with
Myanmar and has stood by it for years in the face of Western
But Meng said the Yunnan government had been providing
humanitarian aid to the displaced.
"We believe that on the basis of consensus reached by the
Chinese and Myanmar governments, and between our regional
government and the Kachin organisation, we will appropriately
deal with the issue of refugees coming in," he added.
Meng said at most there were 3,000 Kachins seeking refuge in
China, though Kachin groups have put the number at about 10,000.
The European Union and the United States have made peace
deals with ethnic minority rebels a pre-requisite for lifting
sanctions on the former Burma, put in place after a bloody
crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988.
Some rebel groups have fought the government since shortly
after independence from Britain in 1948.
(Editing by Robert Birsel)