JUST before the celebrations of Myanmar’s Union Day, not to mention the Chinese new year, a warlord and drug baron in his 80s, Phone Kyar Shin, created spectacular fireworks of his own. His militia launched blistering attacks on the Burmese army around Laukkai, capital of Kokang, a small region of Myanmar bordering China’s Yunnan province.
If so, as Yun Sun of the Stimson Centre in Washington writes (in the Irrawaddy, an online news organisation based in Thailand), he may have misjudged China’s priorities these days. The government is connecting south-west China with the Bay of Bengal via two oil-and-gas pipelines and other vast infrastructure projects in Myanmar. That country’s strategic importance, she says, “significantly outweighs China’s interest in the border ethnic groups”. In expecting sympathy from China, Mr Phone may be pushing his luck.