Yangon [Myanmar], March 20 (ANI): While several multinational companies have publicly expressed their opposition to the military coup and growing violence in Myanmar, China has maintained silence even as Beijing reportedly ordered its state enterprises to evacuate non-essential staff.
According to Nikkei Asia, a Yangon-based rights group has called for companies to sign a joint statement of concern for the coup, but companies from China - Myanmar's biggest investors - are conspicuously absent.
A total of 216 companies have signed a joint statement organised by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) -- a group that advocates for human rights and respect for the rule of law in business, yet there has been no participation from Chinese companies.
This comes in the backdrop of several Chinese companies being the targets of arson attacks, which have increased public scrutiny over the stance of these companies on the coup and the subsequent confrontation between the military and protesters, Nikkei Asia reported.
After the arson attacks, Chinese state media said: "China won't allow its interests to be exposed to further aggression... If the authorities cannot deliver and the chaos continues to spread, China might be forced into taking more drastic action to protect its interests."
China's recent stance to protect its businesses has fuelled a backlash from the protest movement. "So this is no longer an 'internal affairs'. China is now using strong words when their interests are threatened," one Myanmar businessman tweeted.
A leaked Chinese government notice cited by the South China Morning Post on March 16 instructs state-owned enterprises in Myanmar to evacuate employees involved in projects that have been suspended, among others.
China has already been slammed for its alleged support of the Myanmarese military and the hostile takeover on February 1.
Despite efforts to diversify its economy since 2011 and attract international partners, Myanmar still relies heavily on Chinese investment. In the fiscal year ended September, China including Hong Kong was Myanmar's biggest source of foreign direct investment, with nearly USD 2 billion approved by the now-ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government, reported Nikkei Asia.
Beijing is pushing an ambitious infrastructure program in Myanmar as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, seeking to connect China's southern province of Yunnan to the Indian Ocean by linking it with railways and highways across northern Myanmar.
Meanwhile, the most powerful foreign business group in Myanmar, the China Enterprise Chamber of Commerce, based in Yangon, has closed ranks to protect China's image, denying reports of providing technicians to build an internet "great firewall" for the junta.
"Chinese companies really think it (the Myanmar coup and crisis) is an internal affair. And they've been advised and reminded by the people around them to stay away from it," a Myanmar analyst told Nikkei Asia, adding that Beijing is only interested in economic developments.
Meanwhile, the total number killed in weeks of unrest has risen to at least 224, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group said, noting another death in the commercial hub of Yangon and two in the cities of Monywa and Bago on Thursday. (ANI)