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Updated: June 2, 2010 15:18 IST

Chinese PM visits military-ruled Myanmar

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. File photo: AP.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. File photo: AP.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Myanmar on Wednesday for talks with the military junta chief who has promised elections later this year.

Mr. Wen, the first Chinese premier to visit Myanmar since 1994, is scheduled to hold talks with Senior General Than Shwe in the military capital Naypyitaw on Thursday, diplomat sources said.

He was scheduled to visit Yangon’s famed Shwedagon Pagoda on Wednesday and fly to Naypyitaw, 320 kilometres north of Yangon, on Thursday.

China, one of Myanmar’s few international allies, has expressed concern over the junta’s efforts to force several ethnic minority groups in the north—eastern part of the country to lay down their arms and join government—led militias prior to polls this year.

Several groups such as the Wa, Shan and Karen have refused to disarm, raising fears of fighting in the Shan State, which borders China’s southern province of Yunnan.

Last year, Myanmar troops attacked the Kokang, a minority group that is ethnically Chinese, who had refused to surrender their arms to the government. The attack forced thousands of Kokang to flee into China.

While in Naypyitaw, Mr. Wen is also scheduled to meet his Myanmar counterpart Thein Sein and sign agreements boosting economic ties.

“He will sign the bilateral agreements on economy and trade in Naypyitaw when he meets the Myanmar leaders,” a Chinese diplomat in Yangon said.

According to official figures, trade volume between Myanmar and China was 2.9 billion dollars in 2009. Chinese investment had reached 1.8 billion dollars by January, accounting for 11.5 per cent of direct foreign investment in the country.

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