Confusion was the name of the game this week over Myanmar’s stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent vote on the crisis at the UN General Assembly.
Myanmar appeared as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – one character but two very different characters.
First, we heard the cheers of the generals of Naypyidaw supporting the invasion of Ukraine by Russian leader Vladimir Putin because, according to them, it was a decisive decision to protect the territorial integrity of the Russia – basically saying, well done Putin.
Then there was Myanmar’s vote in the United Nations General Assembly, where Myanmar joined 140 other UN members in condemning Russia – expressing blunt contempt for the aggressive actions of Putin.
The two very different approaches reflected Myanmar’s divided political and diplomatic status.
In one corner, Myanmar’s illegal junta seeks to maintain close ties with Moscow because of their diplomatic and material support in the form of fighter jets and helicopters.
In the other corner, National Unity Government (NUG) representative Kyaw Moe Tun is looking to run with the pack and his Western supporters – hence the “Yes” vote to rap about Putin’s actions.
These are the two different responses to the turmoil in Ukraine – a crisis with little or no direct consequence in the Golden Land.
Ironically, the Russian approach of the men in green may be tempered by closed-door discussions last week in Naypyidaw over their fears that the dragon on their border could resort to the very antics displayed by Russia. The generals pondered – Could China do the same with Myanmar?
The Burmese junta appears to live in fear of its northern neighbor should it intervene to protect threatened Chinese interests in Myanmar.
Beijing seems to be making a fuss to emphasize that it is not invading other countries and territories – unlike some Western countries, he says. However, it is sensitive to the territory on its borders and its periphery that it claims, in particular the territory of Taiwan and the islands of the South China Sea. The threatening gestures in the skies of Taiwan have analysts wondering if an invasion of mainland China is imminent – especially amid the current turmoil in global affairs.
What is happening in Ukraine seems to have nothing to do with Myanmar. Yet the country’s two leaders – the junta and the NUG – know that their views on the crisis influence their relations with their backers.