Friday, August 14, 2009

Burma's Arms-Selling Allies

Although most Western nations have issued public demands for stepped up international boycott on weapons sales to Burma in response to the military regime's continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, there is little chance of any success.

Chinese, Russian, East European and North Korean arms dealers over the past decade have provided the Burmese junta with a seemingly limitless array of arms and will probably continue to do so as long as the money holds out.

Calls to punish Burma's military regime by widening the American and European Union ban on weapon sales would mean targeting the Southeast Asian nation's wealthy neighbor, China, which provides most of Burma's deadliest equipment and which has strategic considerations for continuing to prop up the junta.

China has no interest in allowing Burma, for instance, to turn to its regional rival India for support. India, despite its lip service to freedom, also provides aid to the Burmese regime in an effort to supplant China in the junta's affections.

Burma's weapons purchases remain mostly shrouded, and many agreements are difficult to confirm. Nonetheless, ‘China has been the principal source of arms supplies to the Myanmar forces, followed by India, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine and other countries.
During the past 20 years, China has supplied Burma with tanks, armored personnel carriers, military aircraft and artillery pieces such as howitzers, anti-tank guns and anti-aircraft guns. In addition, Serbia and Montenegro sold dozens of howitzers to the country during 2004-2006, while Ukraine signed a contract in 2004 to supply 1,000 armored personnel carriers after a 2002 deal to export 14 tanks.

Burma has bought more than 100 jet fighters and aircraft from China since 1990.

Burma has also bought smaller numbers of jet fighters, helicopters and military transport planes from Yugoslavia, Poland and Russia. Russian, Ukrainian and Polish MI-12, MI-17, G-4 and Sokol helicopters now dominate Burma's air force.

Burma, however, reportedly lacks enough skilled pilots. During the past several years, Burma bought a dozen MiG-29 jet fighters, perhaps to square off against its eastern neighbor, Thailand, which boasts U.S.-built F-16s and other aircraft.

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