The military regime in Myanmar (or Burma) has long enjoyed pariah status thanks to a catalogue of human rights abuses that includes widespread use of forced labour, including child labour. Other day-to-day abuses include denying certain ethnic minorities basic civil rights like citizenship, marriage or the right to own property. Many villages have been razed in their entirety and large populations forcibly relocated in the war on armed opponents of the military.
As you’d expect, civil dissenters are no more tolerated than those who have taken up arms. Take Saw Naing Naing who was unfortunate enough to be elected to parliament in 1990 in an election that saw his party, the National League for Democracy, win eighty per cent of the vote without getting anywhere near the levers of power. This man, who has always sought peaceful regime change, has spent fourteen of the last sixteen years in prison. After making a memorial for a fellow political prisoner who died in custody, he was transferred to the dog kennels. At 64 and in poor health, he is likely to die in prison.
Anyway. The good news is that since 1988 the EU and the USA have maintained an arms embargo against Myanmar/Burma. The bad news is it that it appears not to be holding up as well as it should.
The problem is that the Indian military is increasingly working with Myanmar and may well be supplying equipment, including helicopters, that are dependent on parts sourced from EU countries, including the UK. That’s illegal.
I’ve asked my MP (and regular reader; thanks John!), John Leech, to ask Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform to use an ongoing review of the Export Control Act (2002) to bring in measures to stop this sort of thing. And John’s agreed to do that.
You can learn more and contact the minister yourself in just a couple of mouse clicks. This kind of lobbying activity really can make a difference by choking off the supply of arms to an oppressive regime and reducing its ability to kill.