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Serbian Arms Exports to Burma Exposed by UN and Myanmar Witness

February 25th, 2022  •  Author:   Burma Campaign UK  •  3 minute read
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The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar and the investigative organisation Myanmar Witness have both published evidence this week exposing arms sales to the Burmese military since the military coup last year.

This follows a Briefing paper from Burma Campaign UK last month detailing the decades long relationship between the Burmese military and Serbia.

“By supplying arms to the Burmese military, Serbia is complicit in violations of international law,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK. “The Serbian government knows that the weapons it supplies to the Burmese military are used against civilians, with children and babies being injured and killed.”

Tom Andrews, The UN Special Rapporteur, stated in a new report, Enabling Atrocities: UN Member States’ Arms Transfers to the Myanmar Military:

“The Special Rapporteur has learned through credible sources that throughout at least 2020 and even after the coup, the Serbian Government has granted arms export licenses to Serbian arms manufacturers to sell thousands of rockets (57mm and 80mm) and artillery shells (105mm, 122mm, and 155mm) to the Myanmar military.  Specifically, since the coup, Serbia authorized export licenses for multiple shipments of rockets and artillery in February 2021, March 2021, April 2021 and June 2021.  Credible information indicates that at least one shipment of 80mm rockets was transferred to the Myanmar military on 9 February 2021.  The 80mm rockets are used in the Yak-130 trainer/fighter jets and Mi-24/35 attack helicopters that are actively bombing civilians in Myanmar, while large calibre artillery shells of the sort Serbia has authorized have killed numerous civilians.”

The report is available here.

Tom Andrews states that:

“Arms transfers to the Myanmar military after 2018 were done with the full knowledge that they would likely be used in attacks against civilians.  As such, Member States had an obligation under international humanitarian law, customary international law, and the Arms Trade Treaty to prevent arms transfers from their respective jurisdictions to Myanmar…”

“Serbia’s transfers of these arms likely breach Serbia’s Geneva Convention obligations and may also violate Serbia’s responsibility under customary international law given the virtual certainty that rockets of the sort Serbia has authorized would be used against civilians and the prominent role that rockets have played in Myanmar’s attacks on civilians.”

Myanmar Witness, with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS), have also published a new investigation confirming the export of missiles to the Burmese military since the attempted military coup in 2021. The report is available here.

They stated that they have:

“…identified information indicating that Serbian-manufactured air-launched rockets were exported from Serbia to Myanmar, using a Belarussian airline, after the military coup of 1 February 2021.”

“Official documentation from the Serbian Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Communication, flight tracking data, and analysis of social media footage shows that two batches of unguided aerial rockets are likely to have been flown by Belarussian air company Rada Airlines from Serbia’s Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade to Myanmar’s Yangon Airport on 9 February 2021.”

Serbia, which is supposed to be aligning itself with European Union foreign policy, including an arms embargo on Burma, is ignoring its obligations and violating international law.

“The government of Serbia appears to be saying one thing and doing another,” said Anna Roberts. “Serbia must now unequivocally state that it is imposing an arms embargo and make public details of equipment it had been supplying to the Burmese military.”

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