UN expert raps China, Russia for arming Myanmar despite ‘atrocity crimes’

UN Security Council members China and Russia have continued to provide Myanmar’s military junta with weapons used to attack civilians a year after a coup deposed the elected government, a U.N. rights expert said Tuesday.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Tom Andrews called on the UN Security Council to impose a ban on transfers of arms that can be used against civilians in the Southeast Asian country.

“Despite the evidence of the military junta’s atrocity crimes being committed with impunity since launching a coup last year, UN Security Council members Russia and China continue to provide the Myanmar military junta with numerous fighter jets, armored vehicles, and in the case of Russia, the promise of further arms,” Andrews said in a statement.

“During this same period, Serbia has authorized rockets and artillery for export to the Myanmar military,” said the former U.S. Congressman, who serves as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Myanmar.

“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,” he added.

Noting that the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution last June calling got a halt to arms flows, Andrews called for the convening of an emergency Security Council session to pass a resolution to “at minimum, ban those arms transfers that the Myanmar military are known to use to attack and kill Myanmar civilians.”

The report, titled Enabling Atrocities: UN Member States’ Arms Transfers to the Myanmar Military, said China had transferred fighter jets, while Russia had supplied drones, two types of fighter jets, and two kinds of armored vehicles, Serbia had sold rockets and artillery shells to the Myanmar military.

While those three countries were the only ones found to have sold weapons to the junta since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup, the report said Belarus, Israel, India, Pakistan, South Korea, and Ukraine had also transferred arms to Myanmar in recent years.

Reuters news agency quoted China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, as responding to the report by saying Beijing “has always advocated that all parties and factions should proceed in the long-term interests of the country” and “resolve contradictions through political dialogue.”

The junta has cracked down on its opponents through attacks on peaceful protesters, arrests, and beatings and killings. The military regime has also attacked opposition strongholds with helicopter gunships, fighter jets, and troops that burn villages they accuse of supporting anti-junta militias.

As of Tuesday, nearly 1,570 people had been killed since the coup and almost 12,300 arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights organization based in Thailand.

Andrews in his report also called on UN members to work together to cut the junta’s revenue flows from oil and gas, timber and gemstones. The U.S. Britain and Canada have imposed trade sanctions on Myanmar junta figures and military-linked companies.

“If the revenues necessary to maintain such a military are reduced, the junta’s capacity to assault and terrorize the people of Myanmar will diminish,” Andrews said.

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