One billion Dollar ‘death trade’ in arms for Myanmar Military

myanmar ams trade

The Myanmar military has imported at least $1 billion in arms and raw materials to manufacture weapons since generals staged their coup in February 2021. This gets highlighted in a new report by the UN-appointed independent expert monitoring and investigating human rights abuses in the country.

Some “UN Member States are enabling this trade” through a combination of outright complicity, lax enforcement of existing bans, and easily circumvented sanctions, said the UN rights office OHCHR.

The UN Human Rights Council-appointed expert’s paper, The Billion Dollar Death Trade:  International Arms Networks that Enable Human Rights Violations in Myanmar is the most detailed study on post-coup arms transfers to the military to date, said OHCHR.


“Despite overwhelming evidence of the Myanmar military’s atrocity crimes against the people of Myanmar, the generals continue to have accessto advanced weapons systems, spare parts for fighter jets, raw materials and manufacturing equipment for domestic weapons production,” said UN Special Rapporteur, Tom Andrews.

“Those providing these weapons are able to avoid sanctions by using front companies and creating new ones while counting on lax enforcement.

“The good news is that we now know who is supplying these arms and the jurisdictions in which they operate. Member States now need to step up and stop the flow of these arms,” the expert said.


Andrewscalled for a complete ban on the sale or transfer of weapons to the Myanmar military. He pleaded the governments to enforce existing bans while coordinating sanctions on arms dealers and foreign currency sources.

The report identifies major networks and companies involved in these transactions. Russia and China continue to be the main suppliers of advanced weapons systems to the Myanmar military. They account for over $400 million and $260 million respectively since the coup, with much of the trade originating from state-owned entities.

However, arms dealers operating out of Singapore are critical to the continued operation of the Myanmar military’s deadly weapons factories (commonly referred to as KaPaSa).”

The report reveals that $254 million of supplies have been shipped from dozens of entities in Singapore to the Myanmar military from February 2021 to December 2022. Singaporean banks have been used extensively by arms dealers.

Andrews recalled that the Government of Singapore has stated that its policy is to, “prohibit the transfer of arms to Myanmar”. Apart from this, he mentioned that Singapore decided “not to authorise the transfer of dual-use items which have been assessed to have potential military application to Myanmar.

“I implore leaders of Singapore to seize the information within this report and enforce its policies to the maximum extent possible,” the Special Rapporteur said.

The report also documents $28 million in arms transfers from Thai-based entities to the Myanmar military since the coup. India-based entities have supplied $51 million worth of arms and related materials to the military since February 2021.


“The Myanmar military and its arms dealers have figured out how to game the system. That’s because sanctions are not being adequately enforce. Mopreover, arms dealers linked to the junta have been able to create shell companies to avoid them.”

The expert said uncoordinated nature of current sanctions were allowing payments to be made in other currencies and jurisdictions.


“By expanding and retooling sanctions and eliminating loopholes, governments can disrupt junta-linked weapons dealers,” Andrews said.

The report also focuses on the main sources of foreign currency that have enabled the Myanmar junta to purchase over $1 billion in arms since the coup. “Member States have not adequately targeted key sources of foreign currency that the junta relies on to purchase arms, including most significantly Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise,” Mr. Andrews said.


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