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Israel bans Myanmar officials from arms fairs

July 17, 2019 at 2:07 pm

Rohingyas, who fled from the ongoing military operations in Myanmar, line up for food aid at a refugee camp in Bangladesh on 24 September 2017 [Safvan Allahverdi/Anadolu Agency]

Israel has banned military officials from Myanmar from attending its weapons fairs as long as the Southeast Asian state remains under international sanctions and arms embargos.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced the decision today, saying that, from now on, requests for visas to attend arms expositions by nationals of countries to which Israel refuses to sell arms will be rejected, Haaretz reported.

The decision came after the Israeli daily last month reported that army officials from Myanmar – formerly known as Burma – had attended the Israel Defense and Homeland Security expo in Tel Aviv, at which Israel’s latest weapons, drones and cyber tools were on display. This came despite the fact that Israel claimed it had stopped selling weapons to Myanmar given its record of severe human rights violations.

Myanmar was thrust into the spotlight in 2017 when the Burmese military forcibly displaced over half a million Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine state, driving them into neighbouring Bangladesh. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) subsequently called for the Myanmar government to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing and genocide.

This prompted the European Union (EU) to re-impose an arms embargo on Myanmar, while the US has imposed economic sanctions on the Burmese security forces and high-profile military generals.

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Despite its protestations to the contrary, Israel has continued to sell arms to Myanmar. In May, a report by human rights organisation Amnesty International found that “Israeli companies continue to export weapons to countries that systematically violate human rights”, often “skirting international monitoring and the rules of Israel itself”.

The report added: “There are functioning models of correct and moral-based monitoring of weapons exports […] established by large arms exporters such as members of the European Union and the United States. There is [therefore] no justification for the fact that Israel continues to belong to a dishonourable club of exporters such as China and Russia.”

Israel has also tried to hide details of its sales to Myanmar. In 2017, the state issued a gag order against Israel’s Supreme Court, forcing it to keep secret details of its ruling on a petition against the weapons deals. As a result, few details pertaining to the sales are known; for its part, Amnesty’s report added only that the deals were carried out by the Burmese army’s chief of staff, who apparently posted about the sales on his Facebook page.

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