Parliament Votes to Deepen Military Ties with Russia

By Htet Naing Zaw 11 May 2016

NAYPYIDAW — Burma’s Parliament on Tuesday approved President Htin Kyaw’s proposal to deepen and formalize the country’s longtime military cooperation with Russia.

“This cooperation would contribute to turning the Tatmadaw [Burma Army] into a standard army for national defense,” said military representative Brig-Gen Than Lwin.

“The two countries have already maintained military cooperation for a long time. Burmese students [cadets] frequently study for master’s and doctorate degrees at Russian [military] academies.”

Tun Wai, a Lower House lawmaker from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), said he supported the strengthening of military ties in light of potential long-term gains, but he expressed concern over to what extent signing a formal agreement with Russia might affect Burma’s ability to exercise an active and independent foreign policy.

The agreement includes exchanging information on political and military issues, such as international security and counter-terrorism measures, laws regarding the functioning of armed forces in both countries, knowledge of medical treatment, constructing military maps and experience with UN-led peacekeeping processes.

Lwin Ko Lat, an NLD Lower House lawmaker from Rangoon’s Thanlyin Township, told The Irrawaddy that he did not think Burma’s military ties with Russia would affect its relations with other countries.

“As for military cooperation between countries, there is bilateral cooperation between two countries as well as cooperation among larger groups. Burma now has military relations with Israel, and I personally welcome its military relations with Russia,” Lwin Ko Lat said.

Htin Kyaw’s proposal was seconded by military parliamentarian Than Lwin, NLD lawmaker Tun Wai and Saw Tun Myaw Aung, a lawmaker from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Burma and Russia have long had military cooperation and the proposal would largely only formalize this cooperation, military representatives say.