China suspends bank account of MNDAA

A man walks past a branch of the Agricultural Bank of China in the town of Nansan, Yunnan province, China, March 12, 2017.
Photo: Reuters

The Union government welcomed China’s move to suspend the bank account used by an armed group fighting the troops of the Tatmadaw, in a move to prevent potential damage to diplomatic ties.
“Very constructive move from China, as the stability and peace in the border area is of common interest for both sides,” said U Zaw Htay, the spokesperson of the government of  Myanmar.
The move comes a day after the meeting with the Comander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min  Aung Hlaing and the Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar. At the meeting, the two sides discussed cooperation for peace, stability and security of the border between the two countries.
Following the attack by the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) on 6th March, which killed at least 30 civilians, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in her capacity as the chairperson of the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre, strongly urged all the armed groups to abandon the armed attacks, saying that the violence would bring about nothing but sorrow and suffering for  the innocent local tribes and races. She urged them to join the dialogue for national peace and march together with the people on the path of peace with unified strong spirit on the basis of equality. 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). Over nearly two years, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) raised more than US$500,000, deposited directly in an AgBank account or sent 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 from 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 Chinese law.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was not aware of the specifics about the decision on AgBank.
“We consistently persevere in not interfering in other countries internal affairs and respect the entirety of Myanmar’s sovereign rights and territory. We will not allow any group or individual to use China’s territory to undermine China-Myanmar relations and the border regions’ stability,” she said.
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.—GNLM/Reuters contributed to this report

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