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UK arms export to Myanmar from 2012 to 2022

Country Overview

Myanmar has a population of almost 55 million people, consisting of various ethnic groups. The country was under a military rule from 1962 to 2011, when the military junta initiated a series of political reforms. Four years later in 2015 the country held general elections, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) won. In the following year Aung San Suu Kyi’s government took office with her as State Counsellor. Her government faced some challenges, including ethnic tensions, and navigating complex power sharing arrangements with the military. General elections were held again in November 2020, when the NLD won by a landslide and was scheduled to endorse the results of this election a few months later in February 2021. That month, the military junta ( the Tatmadaw) incited a military coup d’état and has tried to ruthlessly consolidate its authority since then by killing and imprisoning opponents and civilians.

Myanmar is not member of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

How many licenses for the sale of arms to Myanmar  did the UK government issue between 2012 and 2022? 

The UK granted the licenses for three limited and two limited export licenses to Myanmar between 2012 and 2022.

What is the total value of those exports in GBP?

Between 2012 and 2022, the value of UK arms export licensess to Myanmar was £577,000. In 2012, there were some arms licenses granted worth some £40,000, and 2017, the value of arms export licenses rose to £537,000. Numbers aren’t available for the remaining years. However, these export licenses only include single use arms, if we include dual use license numbers, the export value of licenses issues between 2012 and 2022 goes up to £10m.

Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 2023

What are the top 10 types of arms export licenses Britain grants for sale to Myanmar? 

Top 10 military items exported from the UK to Myanmar between 2012-2022Total number of licenses
bomb suits2
body armour2
components for bomb suits2
components for devices for initiating explosives2
military training aircraft1
electronic countermeasure equipment1
components for military training aircraft1
technology for military training aircraft1
technology for equipment for the use of aerial target equipment1
components for electronic countermeasure equipment1
Top 3 military export items from the UK to Myanmar between 2012-2022 by valueValue in GBP
ML10 ‒ Aircraft, helicopters, drones£500k
ML13 ‒ Armoured plate, body armour, helmets£77k

Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 2023

Why should British citizens be concerned about arm license sale?

  1. INEW  stated that the use of armed violence and explosive weapons have exacerbated dire pre-existing conditions of people impacted by the conflict.
  2. Weapon exports to Myanmar’s military rulers, who took power in a coup in 2021, were used against civilians, according to Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
  3. Since the beginning of the coup, the military junta has used live ammunition, water cannons, and rubber bullets to respond to strikes and protests organized by opposition activists. Strikes and mass protests were organized by opposition activists. 

What has the British government said about these concerns?

On March 25th, 2022 the U. announced a series of new sanctions on Myanmar under the control of the military junta ( the Tatmadaw). Overall, the UK has demonstrated a willingness to address the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, given that, in addition to EU sanctions against the regime since 2017, the UK has reduced its license approvals to Myanmar to zero since 2018.

What evidence exists of human rights violations committed by the Myanmar government since 2012?

The systematic repression of the Rohingya Muslims continued in 2014. In January, a major incident in a Rohingya village called Du Chee Yar Tan in Maungdaw township reportedly led to the killing of an estimated 40-60 Rohingya by security forces and Arakanese residents. The following year, the government rejected key recommendations by  the UPR Working Group to address the country’s most pressing human rights issues, including the urgent recommendations regarding the Rohingya minority.

Following the outbreak of violence in Rakhine State on October 9, which resulted in the deaths of nine police officers, the government launched “clearance operations” to track down the alleged attackers. Amnesty International’s reports suggested that the military deliberately targeted Rohingya civilians in the aftermath of the 9 October attacks.

Myanmar’s critical human rights records reached an unprecedented level when the military launched a large-scale ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya minority in the Rakhine State in August 2017.

In August, a United Nations-mandated fact-finding mission found that the military abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine, and the Shan States since 2011 “undoubtedly amounted to the gravest crimes under international law”.

Martial Law Order 3/2021, issued illegitimately by the Myanmar junta in March 2021, stated that the death penalty could be applied for treason provisions, which in practice means any criticism of the military.

In 2022, the Special Rapporteur published a report describing the impact of the February 2021 coup on the human rights of children in Myanmar, reporting the alarming, underreported facts of the violence perpetrated against them. Over the past 16 months (as of June 2022) the military killed at least 142 children in Myanmar. Over 250,000 children were displaced by the military’s attacks and over 1,400 were arbitrarily detained.

A 2023 UN report has called the arms trade to Myanmar the ‘death trade’. In which it quotes UN Special Rapporteur, Tom Andrews saying that “despite overwhelming evidence of the Myanmar military’s atrocity crimes against the people of Myanmar, the generals continue to have access to advanced weapons systems, spare parts for fighter jets, raw materials and manufacturing equipment for domestic weapons production.”