April 2 (UPI) — Chinese troops are reportedly assembling at the Myanmar border to guard China’s highly prized natural gas pipelines as violence grows in Myanmar in the aftermath of a military coup.
The Irrawaddy reported Thursday the troops were gathering in the Chinese border town of Jiegao, facing the town of Muse in Shan State. The mobilization includes soldiers and military trucks, the report said.
Taiwan’s TVBS News reported the Chinese troops were assembling at the border to protect oil and gas pipelines. Chinese authorities have expressed concerns about the assets since Chinese-owned factories were set on fire in Yangon and anti-Chinese sentiment rises in Myanmar, according to the Irrawaddy.
Distrust of China is widespread in Myanmar, where protesters have said they believe China supports Myanmar’s army, the Tatmadaw. Protesters also have claimed it was Myanmar’s security forces that destroyed Chinese factories in March to create more trouble, the South China Morning Post reported in March.
It is unclear how much damage was incurred during the destruction of Chinese-supported factories in Hlaingthaya township, on the outer edges of Yangon. Chinese state tabloid Global Times previously reported the incident led to $37 million in losses. Chinese state media reported angry mobs with crowbars, axes and gasoline set fire to 32 Chinese-backed factories.
Unconfirmed reports on social media indicate Chinese factories were not the only targets. A Chinese-owned hotel and several restaurants in the area were also destroyed during last month’s riots.
China has offered a muted response to the coup. The policy has factored into rising anti-Chinese sentiment in Myanmar. Critics of Chinese investments also have said Myanmar’s factory workers are paid a pittance and live in crowded dormitories while being employed at Chinese firms, according to the Post.
The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar issued an official statement on Friday that referred to the China-Myanmar border.
The embassy said Myanmar nationals in China’s Yunnan Province were infected with COVID-19.