Serbia has continued to supply arms to the Myanmar military since the coup, despite the fact that those weapons are being used to attack and kill civilians, including children.
Tom Andrews, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, identified Serbia, along with China and Russia, as UN member states that are continuing to sell arms to the junta in a report issued on Tuesday.
On the same day, the independent rights group Myanmar Witness also issued its own report revealing that air-launched rockets were exported by Serbia to Myanmar after the February 1, 2021 coup.
Serbia and the Myanmar military have a close relationship that goes back decades to when Serbia was part of the former Yugoslavia. A Serbian delegation reportedly visited Myanmar in January 2022 to discuss sales of artillery to the junta.
The Myanmar Witness report said that a Belarussian plane carrying some 1,644 80mm aerial rockets from Serbia landed at Yangon Airport at 6.30pm on February 9 last year, eight days after the junta’s coup. The rights group also revealed that the rockets were exported officially by Serbian arms manufacturer Jugoimport-SDPR, which was granted an export license by Serbia’s Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Communication.
Images from social media appear to show crates of rockets being unloaded from the plane at Yangon Airport on February 10, 2021.
80mm aerial rockets are used by the Myanmar military’s Russian-made Yak-130 fighter jets and Mi-24/35 attack helicopters, which have been involved in numerous airstrikes against civilian targets, especially in Sagaing Region and Kayah, Karen and Chin states, where armed resistance to the junta is strongest.
On Wednesday afternoon two civilians were killed when junta jets bombed villages in Kayah State’s Demoso Township.
“Serbia’s transfers of these arms likely breach Serbia’s Geneva Convention obligations and may also violate Serbia’s responsibility under customary international law given the virtual certainty that rockets of the sort Serbia has authorized would be used against civilians and the prominent role that rockets have played in Myanmar’s attacks on civilians,” said Tom Andrews in the UN report.
Last June, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on member states to stop the flow of arms to the junta.
However, the UN report identified China and Russia – both permanent members of the UN Security Council – as having supplied fighter jets and armored vehicles to the regime since the coup. Serbia has supplied artillery shells, as well as aerial rockets.
Andrews urged weapons exporting nations to suspend immediately all arms sales to the junta, and called for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution banning the transfer of arms that the regime is using to attack and kill civilians.
“It should be incontrovertible that weapons used to kill civilians should no longer be transferred to Myanmar. These transfers truly shock the conscience,” Andrews said. “Stopping the junta’s atrocity crimes begins with blocking their access to weapons. The more the world delays, the more innocent people, including children, will die in Myanmar.”
The London-based rights group Burma Campaign UK condemned the Serbian government for its sales of rockets being used to target civilians.
“By supplying arms to the Burmese military, Serbia is complicit in violations of international law,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK. “The Serbian government knows that the weapons it supplies to the Burmese military are used against civilians, with children and babies being injured and killed.”
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