Who arms Myanmar?

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.”

This month we are calling for your support for two prisoners of conscience: Burmese activist Chaw Sandi Tun and Israeli activist Tair Kaminer. Chaw Sandi Tun has been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in connection with a Facebook post mocking the army. She was arrested in Yangon and transferred to Maubin prison, where she remains behind bars. Support Chaw Sandi via your protest email here.

Tair Kaminer, 19-year-old activist from Israel, has been imprisoned for 20 days for her refusal to join the Israeli military this month. Support Tair via your protest email here.

Myanmar's army has freed 96 children and young people from its armed forces, the United Nations has said. This was the largest single release of child recruits in Myanmar since the country's government entered into an agreement with the UN in 2012 on the issue. The army has released a total of 272 children and youth over the past 18 months, but has not completely stopped its use of children. According to Al Jazeera, no record of verifiable figures exists to prove how many children currently serve in Myanmar's military.

Research from Child Soldiers International suggests that the Burmese military is still recruiting children, one year after the Myanmar government made a commitment to the United Nations to stop doing so. Whilst they did release 66 children from the military last month, many more remain. The Tatmadaw (the Myanmar Armed Forces) has continued to recruit since it signed the Joint Action Plan with the UN last year, although in lower numbers than those previously reported.

Frank Slijper

After the bloody suppression of protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, the European Union (and the US) ordered an arms embargo that applies until today. From a human rights perspective this is fully justified: the situation remains appalling and attempts at democratic reforms are nipped in the bud. At the same time the embargo is also clearly politically motivated, to keep China as small as possible in military terms. While the economic relationship with China has grown, military co-operation rightly remains a thorny issue. Despite cracks in the embargo it won't be off the table any time soon. Yet it is a question how long the blockade will be maintained with China strengthening its power base.

The military regime of Burma passed a conscription law on 4 November 2010, introducing conscription for men and women in the country. Already the 2008 Constitution, approved in 2008 in a referendum that opposition parties condemned as "sham", includes a new article allowing for conscription. Article 386 of Chapter VIII of the Constitution, titled "Citizen, Fundamental Rights and Duties of the Citizens" states: "Every citizen has the duty to undergo military training in accord with the provisions of the law and to serve in the Armed Forces to defend the Union."


Last month's protest in Burma revealing the violence and crimes of the Burmese military dictatorship has also helped identify the war profiteers that are supporting this Burmese military dictatorship. While many governments came up with strong declarations against the Burmese dictatorship many of the big companies that these government support are making high profitable business thanks to their relations with the dictatorship.

Burma (Myanmar)

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Since 1988 Burma has been ruled by a military government - the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). The country has been renamed Myanmar by the SLORC, but as this name is commonly associated with the military regime, which has one of the worst human rights records in the world, we prefer to refer to the country as Burma.

1 Conscription

conscription exists

The government claims that the armed forces (Tatmadaw) consist of volunteers.

Burma contacts

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AUSTRALIA Australia Burma Council, PO box 2024, Queanbeyan NSW 2620 (tel +61 6 297 7734; email

CANADA Canadian Friends of Burma, 145 Spruce Street, Suite 206, Ottawa, Ontario KIR 6PI (tel 1 613 237 8056; fax +1 613 563 0017; email

CZECH REPUBLIC Burma Project, U Zaw Win, Harusova1316, 14900Praha4

FRANCE Association France-Birmanie, Stefan and Judith Collignon, 21, Bvd Henri 1V, Paris 75004.

GERMANY Burma Project Berlin, U Khin Maung Yin, Dorothee Wenner, Siberhammer 78, 13503 Berlin.

Michael Beer

Militarism run amok. Massive unemployment, poverty wages, and huge gaps between rich and poor. Corruption and inflation out of control Failing literacy.

Human rights abuses are rampant - fake imprisonment, torture, rape, and many kinds of violence - in part because there is no law except arbitrary military decrees and actions. Each colonel operates like a war lord in his area. Forced labour is widespread. Conscription into the military is ubiquitous, but the wealthy simply buy their way out. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is out of control with at least 300,000 people infected.

Mary is a statistic. She is a Karen, one of the largest minority groups in Burma. She is also a refugee, forced to flee her home near the rebel capital of Manerplaw when it fell in late January. The 46-year old civil war in Burma has created at least 100,000 refugees along the Thai-Burma border; the recent fighting has increased that number by 10,000 people. Mary belongs in this latter number.

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