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Cablegate: Chinese Visitors Show Interest in Thailand-Based Burmese Exile Groups

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

CHIANG MAI 00000195 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Summary. Chinese visitors from Yunnan traveled to
northern Thailand in May and July to plumb the exile groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in the Burmese
opposition movement These two trips were the latest is a
two-year series of back-and-forth cross-border visits with Burmese exile leaders. The recurring contacts appear to demonstrate Chinese interest in seeing first hand how the opposition movement is structured and its ability to challenge the current regime. End summary.

2. (SBU) Nyo Myint, a member of the foreign affairs
committee of the National Coalition Union of Burma (NCUB), accompanied two Chinese individuals he believed to be the director and deputy director of Yunnan's foreign relations and
research department around Thailand July 12-27. In May he
accompanied one of the same individuals plus a second Yunnan
visitor from the same department. Both visits were aimed at
learning more about the exile groups, their relations with the U.S., and their connections with the National League of
Democracy (NLD). Note that we have no independent confirmation
of the Chinese visitors' official status and the extent to which they have influence in Chinese official or academic circles.

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3. (SBU) On both occasions the Yunnan visitors said they had been instructed by Beijing to look at the democratic groups and related NGOs in the context of an ongoing three-year policy
review. Nyo Myint reported that the Chinese are aware of the
role the US plays through NGOs in the Burmese political movement and therefore sought meetings with these groups as well.

4. (SBU) The Chinese visitors noted the need to learn more about the democratic groups after 16 years of SPDC power in Rangoon; Nyo Myint observed that the visitors' "have no idea what the opposition is doing", pointing out that despite their fluency in Burmese and long experience with Burma the travelers
knew little about the exile groups. Nyo Myint believed the
Chinese outreach effort was sparked at least in part by the October 2004 ousting of former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, considered a favorite of Beijing's. He suggested, perhaps wishfully, that the travelers' engagement with anti-SPDC groups was itself an intentional form of pressure on the regime. Nyo Myint described the visitors' frank unhappiness with the regime as a change from his first meeting with Chinese officials in Kunming in October 2003.

5. (SBU) The visitors showed concern over the fall of Khin Nyunt and instability within the SPDC. Nyo Myint believed that the Chinese were particularly worried about their business interests in Burma; he said that China has signed 500 Memoranda of Understanding with the Government of Burma and is frustrated that progress on a $67 million telecom contract signed under Khin Nyunt has come to a halt.

6. (SBU) No Thai officials accompanied the two Chinese, who
apparently entered as tourists. Nor were Chinese Consulate
officials involved, presumably wanting to stay away from any meeting with Burmese dissidents that might disturb China and Burma's trading relationship.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
Chiang Mai, Mae Sot, Mae Sai, Mae Hong Son, Bangkok
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

7. (SBU) In May the Chinese officials traveled to Chiang Mai,
Mae Sot, and Mae Sai; the July 12-27 travelers went to Chiang
Mai, Mae Sot, Mae Hong Son and Bangkok. Nyo Myint supplied an
airline booking printout showing the July visitors' names as
Zhang Lin (department head) and Yin Jianlan (deputy). Mr. Yin,
a fluent Burmese speaker, was making his fifth trip to Thailand;
he told Nyo Myint he travels to Burma every two months. The
May visit included a Yunnan University PhD student with excellent English and decent Burmese whose name came across as
Chao Ying. Nyo Myint accompanied both pairs during both trips.

8. (SBU) The May trip included meetings with the NCUB, the NLD-Liberated Areas (NLD-LA), the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), the Forum for Democracy in Burma, the Political
Defiance Committee (PDC), and the Women's League of Burma. The
group discussed regional stability and the issue of the ASEAN
chair. The Chinese indicated that they understood the
potential negative impact of the Burmese regime taking the chair but expressed unhappiness with US and EU interference in ASEAN affairs.

9. (SBU) In Chiang Mai the officials met with NCUB General

CHIANG MAI 00000195 002.2 OF 002

Secretary Maung Maung to discuss the NCUB's political vision and efforts to improve reconciliation between ethnic stakeholders

and the democratic camps. The officials also showed interest
in meeting with NGOs assisting Burmese refugees, including the Burma Relief Center (BRC), the National Health and Education
Committee (NHEC), and the Burma Fund. In Mae Hong Son they met
with ethnic Burmese staff of the International Rescue Committee
(IRC). In meetings with NGOs, the officials showed interest
in the structure and work of the organizations and whether the groups received U.S. funding.

10. (SBU) In July the Yunnan visitors took a look at the outside of the Nu Po refugee camp and paid a call to the office of the Irrawaddy magazine. In meetings with the Karen National Union (KNU) and other ethnic groups, the Chinese talked extensively about the advantages for minorities of Yunnan-style special regions and laws, in the process taking a swipe at American-style federalism that the Chinese claim does nothing to
help African-Americans. They told Nyo Myint that the laws
favor ethnic minorities to the extent that minorities have priority access to university and would likely win against a Han Chinese in a dispute over who was at fault in a car accident.
Nyo Myint reported that the KNU and others were favorably impressed by these accounts.

11. (SBU) In the other direction, Burmese exile officials
have visited Kunming repeatedly, beginning with an NLD visit in 2003. Nyo Myint has traveled there seven times, including to Beijing.

12. (U) Bio: Nyo Myint is a former central youth leader and
central committee member of the NLD in 1988. He was a
bodyguard and political aide to Aung San Suu Kyi 1988-89. An
American citizen since 1998, Nyo Myint has degrees from the University of Rangoon and the University of Texas at Austin.
He is currently deputy head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NLD (Liberated Area) and member of the NCUB Foreign Affairs Committee. His duties include liaison between China, India, ASEAN, NGOs, the NCUB and NLD (LA).

13. (SBU) Comment: Recent events in Burma, including Khin
Nyunt's fall, may have increased Chinese concern about the
instability of the regime. Learning more about the possible
role of minority and exile groups in any future changes not only makes sense from a policy review context but could also serve as a hint to the junta that it is not the only game in town.

This cable was coordinated with ConGen Chengdu.


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