Human rights activists and lawyers in Israel have urged the Ministry of Defense to nullify or suspend a military shipment ordered by the Burma Army, stating that the country still commits human rights abuses against minority groups.
They wrote to Racheli Chen, head of the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s export control department, and called for a review of all defense export licenses purchased by the Burma Army under the authority granted to her in Clause 9 of the 2007 law on defense export control.
“It is surprising that the State of Israel, while struggling for continued sanctions against Iran, has no qualms about ignoring the US and EU sanctions against Burma for the most severe crimes being committed there,” read the letter dated Dec. 11.
It stated that the Burma Army still wages war with ethnic minorities in northern and eastern Burma, while also committing serious human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslim minority in western Burma.
Eitay Mack, a human rights attorney in Jerusalem told The Irrawaddy, “The military hardware hasn’t shipped yet [to Burma]. We want to stop it. We hope that we can do something by using our authority.”
During his visit to Israel last September, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing along with military officials from Burma’s Air Force and Navy toured Elbit Systems, an Israel-based defense manufacturing company. They also toured an Israeli naval base, the country’s Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv and a memorial to fallen soldiers in the Gaza Strip.
Reports and pictures of the trip were revealed on the Burma Army chief’s Facebook, saying that he had spoken with Israeli representatives about purchasing military equipment and training.
The activists’ letter also said that despite the positive transition in Burma, the Burma Army and its officials continue to retain control. Representatives of the junta are assured 25 percent of the seats in parliament, which reserves them the right to veto any reform measures. The military also continues to control three key ministries: defense, border affairs and home affairs.
The letter stated that Burma Army forces and related militias continue to arrest, torture and murder ethnic and religious minorities, opposition and human rights activists, farmers opposed to dispossession of their land, journalists and students.
“This is both a violation of international law, and of basic human morality,” read the letter.
According to various reports, Israel has maintained defense ties with the Burmese junta for decades, even if not continuously. Last June, the head of Israel’s defense export department Gen Michel Ben Baruch visited Burma and met with leaders of the Burma Army.