Myanmar Junta Chief Extols Russia Ties, Says US Relations ‘Not Intimate’

By The Irrawaddy 26 June 2021

Myanmar coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing lauded Russia as Myanmar’s “friend forever” while stating that the US is “not very intimate” compared with neighboring China and India due to its “far distance”, in an interview with Russian media during his visit to Moscow.

“The USA is also Myanmar’s friend but it is in some far distance. But, our neighboring China and India are our close friends,” he told Fedor Lukyanov, anchorperson of the “International Review” program on Russia 24, on Tuesday, adding that “we have to take relations with the neighboring countries seriously.”

“We [Myanmar and the US] are not very close politically like before. Not very intimate in comparison with our neighboring countries,” he said. The interview was aired on military-run Myawady TV on Friday night.

Myanmar’s generals have been suspicious of the US due to its long active support for Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement and its leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi since 1988, as well as Washington’s sanctions against junta members and their associates. Since Min Aung Hlaing staged the latest coup in February, the US has imposed a series of new sanctions against the regime, including freezing about US$1 billion in reserves that Myanmar’s central bank was holding at the New York Fed, which the junta attempted to withdraw after seizing power.

Asked what he thought of Russia if the US is a distant friend while China is a close friend, Min Aung Hlaing replied (according to the translation provided by the Office of the Commander in Chief of Defense Services): “Russia is a very friendly among the friend countries.”

“Both countries are in a far distance but minds are close. I’d like to praise Russia as our friend forever.”

He explained that Russian-Myanmar relations have been good throughout history, recalling the countries’ military cooperation in the 1990s. At that time, Myanmar under the former military regime was shunned by the international community, forcing it to rely on Russia and China for military hardware and training. Both stood with Myanmar at every UN meeting.

“A lot of our citizens have been sent to Russia for their studies. There are over 7,000. When it comes to cooperation sector, the military technological cooperation that I have said is the deepest,” Min Aung Hlaing said.

Military cooperation between the countries remains close. Russia is the second-largest arms exporter to Myanmar after China. Both Moscow and Beijing continue to act as diplomatic shields for Myanmar against any action by the UN.

Min Aung Hlaing was in Russia this week at the invitation of Moscow’s defense minister. During their meeting the minister described Myanmar as Russia’s “time-tested strategic partner and reliable ally in the Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific Region”, adding that the two countries “intend to exert further effort to strengthen the bilateral ties.”

On Wednesday, Min Aung Hlaing was “conferred” the title of “honorary professor” by the Defense Ministry of Russia for “his performance to cement relations between two armed forces, cooperation in the improvement of military technologies and sending trainees to Russia for further strengthening friendly relations between the two armed forces and the two governments.”

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