US dismisses China's rejection of UN accusations of arms transfers to Myanmar


A recent UN report said Myanmar's military imported weapons and related material worth at least $1 billion from China and Russia since the military junta's 2021 coup. [AP Photo]

The U.S. is supporting a report by the special rapporteur of human rights in Myanmar, despite China's objection to findings that Beijing has been exporting arms to Myanmar's military which has used them to forcibly suppress resistance groups since its 2021 coup.

"The United States strongly supports the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and his work illuminating the human rights situation in Myanmar," a State Department spokesperson told VOA's Korean Service on Friday.

The remarks came in response to China's opposition to a United Nations report by Tom Andrews, the special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, that was issued in May. In the report, Andrews said Myanmar's military imported weapons and related material worth at least $1 billion from China and Russia since the military junta's deadly coup in 2021.

The report came up during the regular daily press briefing by China's Foreign Ministry on July 18 when Sky TV asked about China's investment in Myanmar and arms sales to the junta.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said, in part, "The Special Rapporteur actually overstepped his mandate."

She continued, "The report contained smears against normal arms trade between sovereign countries and misrepresentation of facts. China firmly opposes it. We have asked the Special Rapporteur to stay objective and fair and strictly follow his mandate and stop serving any political agenda."

The U.N. report, titled "The Billion Dollar Death Trade: The International Arms Networks that Enable Human Rights Violations in Myanmar," says that out of some $1 billion, the Myanmar military imported more than $267 million worth of weapons and materials from entities in China, including state-owned entities.

The report states, "Numerous private and state-owned companies registered in China, including Hong Kong, continued to supply the Myanmar military with an extensive array of arms, equipment, and raw material between October 2021 and December 2022."

The report said the shipments of arms included jets, attack aircrafts and upgrades to tanks and fighter jets, as well as raw materials, such as aluminum, cooper, steel, rubber and lubricants essential for manufacturing weapons.

China seeks 'friendly country,' says expert

David Maxwell, vice president of the Center for Asia Pacific Strategy, said China has been exporting arms to the Myanmar military because it wants "a friendly country on its southern border" to "access the Bay of Bengal to the Indian Ocean to the East of India."

He said that Beijing has "no concern for the human rights of the people in Burma" as it "seeks to export its authoritarian political system around the world in order to dominate the region."

To achieve this goal, Maxwell said China also seeks to "coopt or coerce international organizations, create economic conditions favorable to China alone, and displace democratic institutions."

Bruce Bechtol, a former intelligence officer at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency who is now a professor at Angelo State University in Texas, said Myanmar is going to be viewed as "a pariah to the international community" and its "only real friend is going to be China."

He added that China might consider that to be an "advantage" because Beijing wants to prevent a democratic country emerging at its border.

'Indiscriminate use of artillery'

Myanmar's military has been using deadly weapons to suppress oppositions groups that have resisted its rule since the overthrow of the democratically elected government led by de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a violent coup in 2021.

Human Rights Watch pointed out in its 2023 World Report that the Myanmar military makes "indiscriminate use of artillery and airstrikes," which has killed and injured civilians and destroyed civilian properties.

The U.N. report by Andrews said that since the coup, the military killed at least 3,500 civilians, detained as much as 22,000 political prisoners, and forcibly displaced more than 1.5 million people.

On Friday, two villagers said the Myanmar military killed 14 people in the village of Sone Chaung in the Sagaing region during a raid to search for the leaders of a resistance group known as the People's Defense Force, according to The Guardian citing AFP.

In June, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on Myanmar's Defense Ministry and two state-run banks used by the military to purchase weapons.

Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank allowed state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise to access international markets to generate revenues used to import weapons and material, according to the Treasury.