Who arms Myanmar?

A protest march in Bangladesh against the violence against the Rohingya community
A protest march in Bangladesh against the violence against the Rohingya community
Andrew Metheven

Since 25th August, over half a million members of Myanmar's Rohyinga community have been driven out from the north Rakhine state, with security forces torching homes, crops and villages in so called “clearance operations” the UN high commissioner for Human Rights has described as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

A recent UN report documented evidence of human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing, stating that it was “high likely” that the Myanmar security forces planted land mines along the border to stop fleeing refugees from returning.

Myanmar continues to be subject to an EU and US arms embargo, brought into force while the country was ruled by a military dictatorship – the EU lifted all sanctions against Myanmar in April 2013, apart from the arms embargo, which is currently in force until 30th April 2018 – the EU has come under pressure for it's “everything but arms” trade deal. The British military has supplied the military of Myanmar with training, though this was suspended in the wake of the most recent attacks on the Rohingya community after pressure from MPs and the press.

Many other countries have exported to Myanmar, including China, Russia, India and the Ukraine - numbers from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show that between 2013 and 2016, China was by far the single biggest supplier of arms. Activists in Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice to end arms sales to Myanmar; in response the government's lawyer said the court should not interfere in Israel's foreign relations. The court's final decision will not be made public. In 2015 Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, visited Israel … “on a “shopping trip” of Israeli military manufacturers”. In 2016, an Israeli company called Tar Ideal Concepts posted pictures on it's website of a training event with members of the security forces in Myanmar.

At the end of September, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on the UN to put a comprehensive arms embargo in place. Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director said “The Security Council should put an immediate end to the transfer of all arms, munitions and related equipment to Myanmar by imposing a comprehensive arms embargo. This should cover both direct and indirect supply, and also ensure that training and other assistance to the Myanmar army ends.”

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