Renewed EU Sanctions Don’t Affect Us: Military Spokesperson

By The Irrawaddy 30 April 2019

YANGON—Myanmar’s military, or Tatmadaw, has said the European Union’s (EU’s) renewed embargo on arms and equipment wouldn’t have any serious impact on it because the majority of its arsenal are of Russian and Chinese origin.

On Monday, the bloc extended sanctions which are already in place for a further year until April 2020.

The sanctions comprise of an embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression, an export ban on dual-use goods for use by military and border guard police, restrictions on equipment for monitoring communications, and a prohibition on military training and cooperation. Plus, asset freezes and travel bans on 14 people for serious human rights violations against the Rohingya population and civilians in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.

Military spokesperson Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told the media on Tuesday that a majority of the military’s weaponry system doesn’t come from the EU, “…..but from Russia and China, so Myanmar will not be affected very much.” He added that as the military is trying to develop into a “standard army,” it would accept technology from any country.

This was a rare admission by a senior military official about the sources of military weaponry.

Crippled for decades by international sanctions—especially by those imposed by the West—it has long been an open secret that the military relies on Russia and China for hardware. However, they have rarely revealed that. The two powerful countries have been long-time supporters of the military regime, especially since the 1990s and early 2000s during a time when Myanmar was shunned by the international community for its human rights abuses and political oppression. Even now, decades later, military ties between them still appear to be strong.

On April 21, Myanmar’s military chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing left for Russia for his third trip since taking his post in 2011. During the six-day trip, at the invite of Russia’s defense minister, he participated in the 8th Moscow Conference on International Security. He also met the government of the Russian Federation and military leaders and visited plants and factories in Ulan-Ude, Irkutsk, Murom, Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

According to the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services website, in Ulan-Ude, he visited an aviation plant; he viewed the MIG-29 Service Support Center in Moscow while admiring a skills demonstration and the firing of armored vehicles manufactured by the OJSC Muromteplovoz Factory in Murom.

During his trip, Russian news outlets reported that six Sukhoi SU-30SM fighter jets are being assembled for Myanmar under a contract worth about US$204 million (300 billion kyats) which was signed between the two nations last year.

Prior to his Russian trip, also in April, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing was in China for a fifth time since 2011. He visited an armored vehicle training school in Beijing and met with senior officers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on April 11.

It wasn’t known if the military chief made any deals on military hardware with China this time, but records show that Myanmar owns a number of Chinese-made aircraft. In June 2017, a Y-8 military tactical transport aircraft crashed into the Andaman Sea, killing 124 people onboard. The plane was made in China. The military later blamed bad weather for the crash.