EU extends Myanmar arms embargo over human rights concerns

Export of military equipment, training banned for a further year, but measures seen as inadequate by rights researcher
EU extends Myanmar arms embargo over human rights concerns

Myanmar soldiers march in formation during a parade to mark the country's 74th Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw on March 27. (Photo by Thet Aung/AFP)

The Council of the European Union has extended a ban on arms sales to Myanmar while also prolonging sanctions against high-ranking officials over rights abuses committed against the Rohingya and other minorities.

An embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression will stay in place until April 30, 2020, the EU Council said in a press release April 29.

The sanctions regime also includes an export ban on dual-use goods that could be used by the military and border guard police. Export restrictions on equipment for monitoring communications that might be used for internal repression are also being applied.  

The sanctions likewise prohibit the providing of military training to and military cooperation with the Myanmar military, who are officially known as the Tatmadaw.

The extension includes “targeted restrictive measures” on 14 high-ranking military and border guard force officials over alleged rights abuses against the Rohingya and other minority groups in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states. Such officials have been barred from traveling to and through the European bloc and their assets held in Europe have been frozen.

The council adopted conclusions on Myanmar and on Dec. 10, 2018, it expressed deep concern over the findings of the independent international fact-finding mission that concluded gross human rights violations were committed in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director, said the council’s move is important but wholly inadequate.

The Tatmadaw committed crimes against humanity and quite possibly genocide against the Rohingya but all the EU can muster is a continuation of existing measures, Robertson pointed out.

“The EU should be expanding its net of targeted sanctions to include Myanmar’s military commander Min Aung Hlaing and all his top aides and thinking creatively to develop other measures that will intensify pressure on Myanmar to cease its persistent opposition to any sort of international accountability for these crimes,” Robertson told

Khin Zaw Win, director of the Yangon-based capacity Institute- Tampadipa, said the EU’s extension was not surprising because rights abuses are ongoing in ethnic areas.

“Myanmar’s military need to take it into consideration rather than give a blanket denial as the EU’s move comes as the International Criminal Court is also in a process of preliminary examination over Rohingya abuses in Rakhine,” Khin Zaw Win told

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine State due to a bloody crackdown by the Myanmar military that started in August 2017 following border post attacks by Rohingya militants.

A U.N. fact-finding mission found that Myanmar's military committed four of the five acts constituting genocide against the Rohingya. It said military chief Min Aung Hlaing and five other senior generals should be prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity.

International Criminal Court officials visited Bangladesh from March 6-11 and said “independent and impartial preliminary examination” of the situation in Bangladesh and Myanmar is ongoing and will follow its course.

Sign up to receive UCAN Daily Full Bulletin
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) is the leading independent Catholic news source from Asia.Support our network of Catholic journalists and editors who daily provide accurate, independent reports and commentaries on issues affecting the Church across the Asian region.

Or choose your own donation amount
© Copyright 2020, UCA News All rights reserved.
© Copyright 2020, Union of Catholic Asian News Limited. All rights reserved
Expect for any fair dealing permitted under the Hong Kong Copyright Ordinance.
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without prior permission.