U.N. Myanmar expert says junta using new Russian, Chinese arms against civilians

3 minute read
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

GENEVA, Feb 22 (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights expert on Myanmar on Tuesday said Russia and China were providing the junta with fighter jets being used against civilians, and urged the U.N. Security Council to halt the flow of weapons enabling atrocities.

Thomas Andrews, a former U.S. congressman serving in the independent post, released a report that also named Serbia as one of three countries supplying arms to the Myanmar military since it seized power last year, with "full knowledge that they would be used to attack civilians".

"It should be incontrovertible that weapons used to kill civilians should no longer be transferred to Myanmar," Andrews said in a statement.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Chaos has gripped Myanmar since a coup ended a decade of tentative democracy, triggering protests that troops suppressed with lethal force.

At least 1,500 civilians have been killed, according to activists cited by the U.N., which also says more than 300,000 people have been displaced by rural conflict between the military and armed opponents.

The junta says it is fighting "terrorists" and objects to what it calls U.N. interference.

Myanmar's military and Russia's foreign ministry could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

Asked about the report at a regular briefing, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said China "has always advocated that all parties and factions should proceed in the long-term interests of the country" and "resolve contradictions through political dialogue".

In a statement, Serbia's foreign ministry denied supplying arms and said since Myanmar's coup it had "examined the new situation very carefully and in March last year made a decision not to deliver weapons to this country either under previously concluded agreements or new export requests."

Human rights groups and the U.N. have accused the junta of using disproportionate force to fight militias and ethnic minority rebels, including artillery and air strikes in civilian areas.

The report said Russia had supplied drones, two types of fighter jets, and two kinds of armoured vehicles, one with air defence systems. China transferred fighter jets while Serbia had provided rockets and artillery shells, it said.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution last year calling on members to halt arms transfers to Myanmar's military, which Andrews said the security council should make binding.

Serbia voted in favour of the resolution, but Russia and China abstained.

While China has urged an end to hostilities in Myanmar, Russia has been the generals' closest diplomatic ally amid efforts by the West to isolate them.

Andrews also called for cutting the Myanmar military's access to oil and gas revenue and foreign exchange reserves, plus international bans on purchases of Myanmar timber, gemstones, and rare earths.

Myanmar's rulers were vulnerable and could be stopped with international resolve, he said in the report.

"If revenues necessary to maintain such a military are reduced, the junta's capacity to assault and terrorise the people of Myanmar will diminish," he said.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Additional reporting by Martin Pollard in Beijing and Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade; Writing by Stephanie Nebehay and Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies and Stephen Coates

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.