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. The same morning, 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 ATT.
How many licenses for the sale of arms to Myanmar did the UK government issue between 2012 and 2022?
The UK exported 3 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 exports to Myanmar was £577k. In 2012 there were some arms sales worth £40.000, and 2017, when the value of arms exports reached £537.000. Numbers aren’t available for the remaining years. However, these exports only include single use arms, if we include dual use numbers, the export value 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 is selling to Myanmar?
|Top 10 military items exported from the UK to Myanmar between 2012-2022||Total number of licenses|
|components for bomb suits||2|
|components for devices for initiating explosives||2|
|military training aircraft||1|
|electronic countermeasure equipment||1|
|components for military training aircraft||1|
|technology for military training aircraft||1|
|technology for equipment for the use of aerial target equipment||1|
|components for electronic countermeasure equipment||1|
|Top 3 military export items from the UK to Myanmar between 2012-2022 by value||Value 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 arms sales?
- INEW stated that the use of armed violence and explosive weapons have exacerbated dire pre-existing conditions of people impacted by the conflict.
- 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.
- 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.K. 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.”
Despite this catalog of harm, the UK still deems it acceptable to sell weapons and arms to Myanmar.
Human rights abuses continue.
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