Myanmar Army Barred from Future Israeli Arms Expos: Newspaper

By Moe Myint 17 July 2019

YANGON – The Myanmar military will be denied access to future Israeli arms expos after the Jewish state was humiliated on the international stage for inviting Myanmar army officials to an arms trade show in Tel Aviv in June.

The Israeli government’s decision followed the publication of an article in Israeli newspaper Haaretz in June that exposed the attendance of a Myanmar military major and two captains at the Israel Defense and Homeland Security Expo (ISDEF), raising questions about the ties between the Israeli Defense Ministry and the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw).

The Israeli Defense ministry had earlier denied selling arms to the Myanmar military, which has a notorious reputation internationally, and the story shocked military observers.

On June 7, Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy that its officials would probably join such an exhibition if invited by the host country.

On Wednesday, Haaretz reported that starting this month the Israeli Foreign Ministry will reject visas for Myanmar military officials as long as Myanmar remains under an international arms embargo over its human rights violations.

Based on Israeli government officials’ verbal statements, the paper said, the ISDEF expo is open to any interested person around the world, but as the Myanmar military’s attendance had resulted in widespread criticism of Israel, its Foreign Affairs Ministry has decided not to issue visas to Myanmar army officials and those from other rights-abusing nations in order to “avoid future embarrassments.”

Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon was quoted by Haaretz as saying that, “Israel does not sell arms to Myanmar and this policy has not changed.”

The United Nations labeled the Myanmar military’s 2017 clearance operations against the Rohingya as having “genocidal intent”. The operations were carried out in the wake of attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in northern Rakhine.

The army’s rampage forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh within a few months. International rights groups called for the army’s top brass to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take responsibility for the operations.

In recent days, ICC prosecutors visited Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh to conduct initial inquiries.

The repatriation of tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees has yet to begin, although Myanmar and Bangladesh signed agreements on their return in 2018. Citing the army’s extrajudicial killings and other rights abuses against the Rohingya community, the US on Tuesday imposed sanctions against Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, deputy chief Vice Senior General Soe Win, Brigadier General Than Oo and Brigadier General Aung Aung. Their family members were included in the travel ban.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the release of soldiers convicted of extrajudicial killings at Inn Din village in Maungdaw during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in 2017 was “one egregious example of the continued and severe lack of accountability for the military and its senior leadership.”

The Myanmar military has been accused by the UN of fresh atrocities in its clashes with the Arakan Army in northern Rakhine this year.

“We remain concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and there are continued reports of the Burmese military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country,” Pompeo said.

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