| YANGON, March 22
YANGON, March 22 Myanmar's government praised
China on Wednesday for suspending a Chinese bank account used by
ethnic rebels fighting Myanmar troops, in a move to prevent
potential damage to diplomatic ties.
Reuters has revealed that an ethnic rebel armed group
fighting Myanmar forces near the Chinese border had been openly
soliciting funds via China's giant state-owned lender
Agricultural Bank Of China (AgBank).
Myanmar's peace process - started under the previous
semi-civilian administration - has lost momentum after Nobel
Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi came to power in 2016, with
some of the militias accusing her of a one-sided approach and
refusing to join a major peace conference.
Relations with China have been strained by the ethnic
conflicts spilling over the border, and some observers say
Beijing uses ethnically Chinese insurgent groups as a means of
leverage over Myanmar.
The decision to suspend AgBank was welcomed by Suu Kyi's
"We appreciated this action. Stability and peace in border
area is common interest for both sides," Myanmar's presidential
spokesman, Zaw Htay, told Reuters. "(It was a) very positive
move from China."
Zaw Htay shared the Reuters story on his widely-followed
Facebook page and Twitter accounts, tagging key negotiators in
Myanmar's peace process.
Over nearly two years, the Myanmar National Democratic
Alliance Army (MNDAA) raised more than $500,000, deposited
directly in an AgBank account or sent it via two mobile payment
services - Tencent Holdings' WeChat Pay and Alipay,
part of Ant Financial, which is affiliated with U.S.-listed
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
The account was suspended over the weekend, shortly after
Reuters had sent AgBank a list of questions regarding the
transactions, which compliance experts said could point to a
weakness in controls aimed at stopping the global financial
system being used to fund terrorism or facilitate crime.
There is no evidence that Agbank, or other financial
entities that handled transactions for the MNDAA, have broken
Earlier this month, insurgents from the predominantly ethnic
Chinese MNDAA attacked government troops in northeastern
Myanmar. Some 20,000 people fled across the border to China to
escape the fighting, prompting Beijing to call for a ceasefire.
In a rare move, Myanmar army chief Senior General Min Aung
Hlaing disclosed on his official Facebook page that he had
summoned the Chinese ambassador and defense attaché on Tuesday
to discuss the conflict, and how to cooperate to bring about
peace and stability.
(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)