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- Russia to build atomic plant for Burmese
- Weapons Sales by India, China and Russia
Fuel Abuses, Strengthen Military Rule
- Russia, China Veto Resolution On Burma
rights no barrier for Myanmar arms deals
Russia to build atomic plant for Burmese junta
· Deal is likely to worsen US ties with Moscow
· UN inspection agency says it has not been informed
Luke Harding in Moscow
Thursday May 17, 2007
Russia has agreed to supply Burma with its first
nuclear reactor, in a move that is likely to dismay the United States and
raise fresh fears about the spread of nuclear technology around the world.
Russia's atomic energy agency said it had
reached a deal with Burma's military junta to build a nuclear research
centre. The plant will have a light water reactor with a capacity of 10MW.
It will use 20% enriched nuclear fuel, the agency said.
Burma's science minister, U Thaung, signed a
memorandum of understanding in Moscow on Tuesday with the agency's chief,
Sergei Kiriyenko, officials said. A contract setting out where the plant
would be built - and exactly how much it cost - would be agreed later, they
The deal will irritate the Bush
administration at a time when US-Russian relations are already in deep
trouble over a range of issues ranging from missile defence to the future of
Kosovo. It comes ahead of a difficult EU-Russia summit today and tomorrow in
the Volga town of Samara.
Burma has been under US and international
sanctions since 1990, when the military junta refused to accept the election
victory of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Since then Russia, along with China, has
become a major backer and supplier of arms to the Burmese regime. The US is
also unhappy about Russia helping Iran to build a $2bn (£1bn) nuclear
facility at Bushehr. Washington suspects Iran of developing nuclear weapons.
Yesterday Russia's federal atomic energy
agency insisted that Burma had a right to peaceful nuclear technology - and
said that there was "no way" it could use the reactor to develop nuclear
missiles. The agency's spokesman, Sergei Novikov, told the Guardian: "It's
impossible to use it for anything other than civilian purposes. It can't be
used for military nuclear programmes." Asked why Burma's government wanted a
nuclear reactor, he replied: "I don't know."
Mr Novikov then suggested: "They want to make
a first start in the peaceful use of nuclear technology."
The Kremlin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, also
rejected criticism. "No one is arguing about the right of every state to
have peaceful nuclear energy," he said. "We can only welcome achievements in
this sector of industry, which is very developed and very safe from the
point of view of non-proliferation."
Russian officials say the research centre -
which will include laboratories and a facility for processing and burying
nuclear waste - will produce only a small amount of electricity. Its main
purpose will be to produce medical isotopes for use in cancer treatments.
They conceded, however, that Burma would
probably build a much larger nuclear reactor at some point. The atomic
agency pointed out that the project in Burma, which is a signatory to the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, would come under International Atomic
Energy Agency control.
Yesterday, however, an IAEA official said
Burma had not "informed" it about the plan. Any reactor would be subject to
safety inspections by the UN agency, the official said.
Construction of the reactor will be handled
by the state-owned Atomstroiexport, which is controlled by Russia's atomic
agency. "We are currently at the state of declaration of intentions," its
spokeswoman, Irina Yesipova, told the Guardian yesterday.
The deal is a long time in coming. The
project was first floated in 2000 but apparently collapsed in 2003 because
of Burma's inability to find the hard currency needed to pay for
construction costs. Under the deal, about 350 Burma scientists would be
invited to Russia to learn about nuclear technology, Mr Novikov said.
Analysts believe the country's military
leadership has sought Russia's help in an attempt to balance its traditional
and lop-sided dependence on China. Intriguingly, the move comes a month
after Burma restored diplomatic relations with North Korea after a gap of 15
Burma's capital, Rangoon, suffers from
frequent power cuts as the country's economy struggles under the weight of
decades of economic mismanagement. Some 240 miles north of Rangoon, the
junta's newly built capital, Nay Pyi Taw, is basking in light, visitors
The military has run Burma since 1962. It
ignored Ms Suu Kyi's landslide 1990 election victory. She has been under
house arrest ever since.
As well as Burma, Russia is already building seven nuclear power
plants in Iran, China, India and Bulgaria. It
also agreed on Tuesday to refurbish four old nuclear reactors in Hungary,
built in the early 1980s.
The Kremlin insists all countries have a
right to develop peaceful nuclear technology. Moscow's most controversial
project is the construction of Iran's first nuclear power station in
the Gulf seaport of Bushehr.
To Washington's delight, work on the project
stopped earlier this year in a row over unpaid bills. The US accuses Iran of
developing an illicit nuclear bomb programme - a charge Tehran
Russia's state-owned company
Atomstroiexport, will build Burma's new nuclear reactor. Yesterday's
Kommersant newspaper put the cost to Burma's military regime at $50m-$70m
Security Council Should Impose Arms Embargo
Weapons Sales by India, China and Russia Fuel Abuses, Strengthen Military Rule
(New York, October 10, 2007) – The United
Nations Security Council should impose and enforce a mandatory arms embargo
on Burma because of continuing massive violations of human rights, Human
Rights Watch said today. India, China, Russia, and other nations are
supplying Burma with weapons that the military uses to commit human rights
abuses and to bolster its ability to maintain power.
“It’s time for the Security Council to end all
sales and transfers of arms to a government that uses repression and fear to
hang onto power,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Instead of continuing to protect Burma’s abusive generals, China and Russia
should join other Security Council members to cut off the instruments of
India appears to be one of the two main suppliers of advanced modern arms to
the Burmese military. Earlier this year, India sold Burma two BN-2 Defender
maritime surveillance aircraft that India had bought from the United Kingdom
in the 1980s. The aircraft were delivered in August despite the British
government’s objections that they were being supplied to a country under a
European Union arms embargo. Later this year, India sold T-55 tanks and
105mm artillery pieces to the Burmese military. As it wages war against
ethnic insurgents, the military routinely uses weapons such as artillery and
mortars in conflict areas to destroy villages and exact retributions against
India is currently preparing to send Burma aircraft, artillery, armored
personnel carriers, tanks, ships, and a host of small arms in the next year.
Perhaps most alarming, India has offered to sell newly developed Advanced
Light Helicopters (ALH) to Burma, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautical
Limited (HAL). These helicopters, if delivered, would give the Burmese
military a sophisticated weapon platform to fire rockets and guns, which
could be used with devastating effect against political demonstrations in
urban areas or rural villagers.
According to a recent
report from Saferworld and Amnesty International, the Advanced Light
Helicopters use superior European rockets and guns, as well as powerful
French engines. Human Rights Watch urged the manufacturers and countries
where these products are made to call on the Indian government to end sales
to Burma and to ensure proper monitoring and implementation of end-use
“India’s close relationship with the Burmese military is a discredit to the
‘world’s largest democracy,’” said Adams. “The Indian authorities should be
leading the efforts to end the supply of arms being used against the
democracy movement in Burma.”
China is the other main arms supplier. It has supplied Burma with advanced
helicopter gunships, arms production technology, and support equipment such
as trucks and vehicles. Chinese-manufactured Mi-8 helicopter gunships have
been photographed supporting Burmese military actions in eastern Burma where
Burmese troops have committed numerous war crimes against civilians and
massive displacement in its attacks on ethnic minority separatist groups.
Beijing has also supplied small arms, including mortars, landmines, and
assault rifles, as well as assistance in setting up an indigenous small-arms
production capability. China has supplied a vast array of advanced military
hardware to Burma, including fighter planes, naval vessels and tanks, and
other infantry support weapons.
“China says it wants stability and a peaceful solution to the crisis in
Burma,” said Adams. “But as long as Beijing continues to arm the Burmese
military and give it political cover, the situation in Burma will remain
Russia is also a noted supplier of arms to Burma, which includes a deal for
MiG-29 fighter planes in 2002.
South Korean companies including Daewoo International Corporation and
several others have been accused of illegally boosting the capacity of the
Burmese army to produce weaponry. Daewoo reportedly supplied technology and
equipment to build a factory to produce mortar rounds near the town of Prome,
leading to South Korean investigations and indictments against company
North Korea has supplied truck-borne multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS)
and artillery pieces to Burma. North Korean engineers have also been
contracted to build an underground tunnel complex at the new national
capital at Nay Pyi Daw in central Burma, where the military leadership is
Burma has also reportedly received weapons from Israel. In 2005, Israel was
reported to have sold 150 Brazilian EE-9 Cascavels light tanks to Burma.
Human Rights Watch said that an arms embargo should also include a ban
against training the Burmese military, paramilitary, and police forces, all
of which have been used to crush the pro-democracy movement in Burma.
According to information received by Human Rights Watch, there are hundreds
of Burmese defense forces officers being trained in military academies in
Russia on nuclear physics, artillery techniques, and computer technology.
Exiled Burmese media groups report that cyber-warfare activities that hacked
their sites in the past week originated in Moscow. Russia and the Ukraine
also have a number of technical staff based in Burma to train Burmese air
force and army personnel. Australia has included Burmese police and military
officers in its counterterrorism training workshops at centers in Indonesia.
Other nations involved in training the Burmese military include China, which
continues to train fighter pilots following the sale of F-7 Airguard fighter
planes in the 1990s. The recent sales of advance weaponry from India will
also require training assistance. India has also offered Special Forces
training to Burmese military units to aid joint operations along the shared
border along northeast India and western Burma.
“The nations of the world are arming and training the Burmese military at
the same time that they condemn Burma’s human rights violations,” Adams
said. “These countries should back up their rhetoric with actions to avoid
complicity in attacks on the Burmese people.”
The Burmese spend an estimated 40 percent of the government budget on the
military, while combined health and education expenditure is among the
lowest in Asia. Military-run hospitals and schools are the best in the
country, while civilian hospitals are poorly funded and cannot respond to
the widespread health crisis in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. While
Burma’s people are among the poorest in the region, senior military
officials live lavish lifestyles. Instead of working to improve the lives of
its people, the military also routinely seizes land from civilians for
defense establishments and frontline bases, using forced labor in
“The world should insist that the Burmese government address the country’s
massive poverty and build up its health and education infrastructure,” said
Adams. “Instead, many countries are draining Burma of its limited resources
through military sales, profiting handsomely while many Burmese struggle to
put food on the table.”
Human rights no barrier for Myanmar arms
Grant Peck, Associated Press
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Military-ruled Myanmar is a
pariah state to many because of its dismal human rights record, slapped with an
arms embargo by the U.S. and European Union. But to some of the world's other
top weapons dealers, Myanmar is just another customer.
India, the world's most populous democracy, and
North Korea, Asia's most repressive dictatorship, are both suppliers to
Myanmar's military, and neither has signaled it would stop business after the
junta's crackdown on pro-democracy protests last month.
As is the case with the biggest suppliers to
Myanmar -- Russia, China and Ukraine -- such arms sales may be widely criticized
for helping the regime stay in power, but they don't clearly violate any laws,
treaties or international agreements.
"Together these countries can supply anything
Burma could possibly want, and they have more or less done so in the last 15
years," said Siemon Wezeman, a researcher for the Arms Transfers Project of the
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI.
Most known arms transfers to Myanmar are legal,
and some are even reported to the United Nations. But other transactions are
murkier, as countries more sensitive to international opinion apparently try to
mask their activities. Analysts say these include India, as well as Israel and
The only restrictions on selling military
equipment to Myanmar, also known as Burma, are self-imposed. The tightest
embargoes are maintained by the United States and the European Union, while
several other nations, such as South Korea, have less sweeping or informal
The U.S. and European restrictions ban sales and
re-sales of virtually all military-related equipment to Myanmar. But it is
difficult to stop third parties from selling used equipment and licensed
As a result, the junta has become the eager
client of countries that "have garnered reputations for being willing to supply
almost any regime," said Dr. Paul Holtom, another SIPRI researcher.
Myanmar's army of more than 400,000 is the
second-largest in Southeast Asia after Vietnam's, and bigger on a per capita
basis. Because it is one of Asia's poorest countries, its military has until
recently operated without much of the sophisticated weaponry of its neighbors,
but has made huge modernization efforts since 1988.
The reasons for selling to Myanmar are many --
and first among them is profit.
By far the largest amount of Myanmar's arms have
been imported from China, according to SIPRI's register of transfers of major
conventional weapons. Its database, which represents conservative estimates,
shows Myanmar importing $1.69 billion in military goods from China between 1988
-- when the current junta took power after violently crushing a pro-democracy
uprising -- and 2006.
Goods bought from China over years have included
armored carriers, tanks, fighter aircraft, radar systems, surface-to-air
missiles and short-range air-to-air missile systems. Russia comes in second at
$396 million, then Serbia and Ukraine.
Geopolitical considerations also play a role in
weapons sales to Myanmar.
India, for instance, had been a harsh critic of
the 1988 crackdown. But it apparently overcame its aversion to dealing with the
regime after watching China gain a commercial, political and military foothold
in Myanmar, posing a potential strategic threat, especially as it opened up the
prospect of Indian Ocean access for Beijing.
India sought to enlist Myanmar's cooperation in
its long-running struggles against separatist groups in its northeast.
India shows up on SIPRI registry beginning in
2005. India has confirmed the delivery of two secondhand, British-made BN-2
Islander light transport aircraft, but insists they are not fitted out for
military use. Reports of transfers of light artillery, armored personnel
carriers and tanks remain unconfirmed.
Most controversial has been the planned sale of
Indian- manufactured ALH attack helicopters. Various parts of the aircraft are
supplied or made under license from several countries that embargo arms to
Myanmar. Anti-junta campaigners insist the sale -- which is now in limbo --
would be in violation of the EU embargo, and have put India on notice that it
could endanger commercial links with Europe.
India denies supplying weapons to Myanmar, but
has acknowledged the two countries have defense agreements to help fight rebels
on common border.
Many countries are eager to unload aging
Myanmar is a willing buyer.
Russia, Serbia and Ukraine all have large Cold
War-era defense industries and leftover hardware, and are intent in wringing
profit from them.
Israel is also considered by arms researchers to
be a major supplier of weapons and arms technology to Myanmar, though few
details can be verified. A 2000 report by the London-based publication Jane's
Intelligence Review detailed extensive alleged links, but the Israeli government
denies any arms sales.
Most mystery shrouds the junta's deals with North
Korea, widely believed to have supplied weapons such as Scud-type missiles that
other nations are unwilling or unable to provide.
Details of Pyongyang's dealings with Myanmar are
hard to verify, because the two nations are among the world's most secretive.
Impoverished North Korea is cited by researchers as a "source of last resort"
for arms buyers.
who cannot obtain what they want elsewhere.
Pyongyang is also hampered by the low quality of
"Burma does not (yet) need North Korea to supply
rather inferior weaponry when it can get better stuff from Russia, China or a
host of other nations," Wezeman wrote in an e-mail response to questions.
Still, SIPRI lists Pyongyang as delivering 16
large artillery pieces to Myanmar in 1999, but reports in such publications as
Jane's Intelligence Review and Far Eastern Economic Review suggest much more
Myanmar is said to have sought to purchase
submarines from Pyongyang -- a deal believed to have fallen through -- and
surface- to-surface missiles such as Pyongyang has supplied to other nations.
Russia, China Veto Resolution On Burma
Security Council Action Blocks U.S. Human Rights Effort
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 13, 2007; A12
UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 12 --
Russia on Friday jointly vetoed a U.S.-sponsored resolution criticizing
Burma's human rights record, striking a blow to the Bush administration's
year-long campaign to use the U.N. Security Council to spotlight the repressive
rule of Burma's military junta.
Friday's vote was part of a broader diplomatic
effort by Beijing and Moscow to prevent the United States and its Western allies
from using the 15-nation council to censure some of the countries particularly
known for rights abuses, including governments in Belarus, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
They were joined by one of the council's most
influential Third World countries,
South Africa. It also opposed the U.S. resolution on the grounds that the
Security Council has no mandate to scold or sanction Burma, also known as
Myanmar, for abuses on its own soil.
"We believe that the situation in this country
does not pose any threat to international or regional peace; this opinion is
shared by a large number of states, including most importantly those neighboring
Myanmar," Russia's ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, told the council. "We find
that attempts aimed at using the Security Council to discuss issues outside its
purview are unacceptable."
The United States secured nine votes for the
resolution in the 15-nation council. Congo, Qatar and Indonesia abstained,
arguing that the U.N. Human Rights Council is the appropriate venue for
addressing Burma's human rights record.
Despite the tepid support for the U.S.
initiative, virtually all council members -- including China -- expressed
concerns about Burma's behavior. Indonesia's envoy, Rezlan Ishar Jenie, urged
Burma's government to heed international calls to restore "democracy and human
rights" to the country.
Burma's ambassador, Kyaw Tint Swe, praised China,
Russia and South Africa for opposing the resolution, which he said was based on
"patently false information."
The Bush administration's acting U.N. ambassador,
Alejandro Wolff, said the United States was "deeply disappointed" by the
council's failure to confront Burma. But he said the United States decided to
force a vote to assure the Burmese people that "we won't forget you."
The vote initially faced resistance from some
officials within the State Department and from European envoys, who feared it
would damage U.S. and European relations with China while exposing the depth of
Third World opposition to Security Council interference in Burma's affairs.
But President Bush and Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice decided it was worth making the point on a matter of principle,
according to U.S. officials.
R. Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary of state
for political affairs, challenged suggestions that the effort had backfired,
highlighting a growing rift between the West and the developing world over human
rights. "We don't consider this a defeat," Burns said. "We did the right thing.
We stood up for universal human values."
Burma's generals have ruled the country since
1962, presiding over one of the world's most repressive governments. U.N. rights
monitors have accused the government of conducting a brutal counterinsurgency
campaign that has displaced more than 1 million people. The government has also
held Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for most of
the period since her political party, the National League for Democracy, won a
landslide election victory in 1990. The military refused to recognize the
The defeated resolution called on Burma's rulers
to release Suu Kyi and more than 1,100 of her political supporters, cease
attacks on the country's ethnic minority, and begin a democratic transition. It
also called on Burma to halt the widespread use of rape by the armed forces and
to back efforts by the International Labor Organization to end forced labor in
China led opposition to the U.S. initiative,
highlighting its emergence as an increasingly assertive diplomatic force at the
United Nations. Last year, it played a central role in the selection of South
Korean Ban Ki Moon as the United Nations' first Asian secretary general in more
than 35 years.
This is only the fifth time that China's
Communist government has cast its veto since it joined the United Nations in
1971, a tiny fraction of the 254 vetoes cast by the other four permanent members
of the Security Council. The United States, for instance, has cast its veto 82
times and Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) has cast its veto 122 times. The
last time China and Russia cast a double veto was in 1972.
"No country is perfect," Chinese Ambassador Wang
Guangya told the council. "Similar problems exist in other countries as well."