Belarus votes against UN resolution after over decade of Myanmar military ties

June 22, 2021

On June 18, 2021, the UN General Assembly voted on a resolution calling on the Myanmar military to restore democracy the Myanmar coup, release political prisoners and stop violence. The resolution called on UN members to “prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar”. Belarus was the only country that voted against. Even its close ally Russia abstained.

In 2020, Belarus saw the biggest protests in its history as the people overwhelmingly and courageously stood up to the Lukashenko regime, following a rigged election in which the main challenger was forced into exile and poll workers admitted to fraud. The regime cracked down, beating and detaining peaceful protesters and journalists. Last month, the regime even hijacked a commercial plane to capture an independent journalist.

Belarus has longstanding ties with the Myanmar military. It is also one of the world’s largest exporters of arms.

In 2008, under Myanmar’s previous dictatorship, the two countries formed a joint commission on military technical cooperation, which has held annual meetings. Topics include arms sales, manufacturing, technology transfer and training. The Myanmar side of the commission is headed by the deputy defence minister and the Belarus side is headed by the first deputy chair of the State Military Industry Committee.

Belarus’ Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich visited Myanmar in 2011, at the start of the military controlled democratic transition. The trip involved the signing of an agreement on trade and economic cooperation, with talks on oil exploration, mining, fertiliser, vehicle manufacturing and technology transfer. It was one of the first high level visits under the military's proxy government, overshadowing the arrival of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

In 2014, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing visited Belarus, meeting President Alexander Lukashenko, touring arms manufacturers and discussing combat training. Belarus state media reported that Lukashenko told Min Aung Hlaing, “I am impressed with your approach” and pledged that Belarus is ready to export to Myanmar. Air defence was also discussed.

Myanmar was the first country to buy Belarus’ Kvadrat-M SAM missile system, a modernised upgrade of the Soviet-era air 2K12 Kub, pictured at the Armed Forces Day parade in Naypyidaw in 2016. The State Authority for Military Industry touts Myanmar as a country "armed with advanced military equipment made in Belarus."

In 2015, during the government led by military proxy party Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a parliamentary delegation went to Belarus headed by upper house speaker and former psychological warfare director Major General Khin Aung Myint (rtd). The delegation met with Lukashenko, discussing arms sales and military cooperation. Khin Aung Myint told Lukashenko, “We need such reliable partners as Belarus.” The delegation also visited the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT), which produces military vehicles.

In 2017, months after the military’s “clearance operations” were launched against the Rohingya, the tenth meeting of the joint commission met in Naypyidaw. Talks were held with Min Aung Hlaing in which Belarus offered cooperation “in a wide range of areas, including repair and modernisation of armaments and military equipment, deliveries, as well as production of advanced military products with the possibility of transferring relevant technologies.”

The last bilateral meeting may have been in February 2020, when an Air Defence Command delegation headed by Lt Gen Tin Maung Win visited Belarus, discussing joint air defence projects.

Since Myanmar’s brutal and illegal attempted coup, Belarus state media has published pro-junta propaganda, portraying peaceful protesters as terrorists and even blaming protesters for the junta’s massacre of civilians on Armed Forces Day, a narrative that may serve to reinforce Belarus’ brutal crackdown against their own democracy movement.

Justice For Myanmar condemns Belarus’ support for the Myanmar military and their attempted coup. Belarusian arms sales and military cooperation with Myanmar, which aids and abets atrocity crimes, must be stopped. We reiterate our call for a global arms embargo on Myanmar now.

We also recognise that the Lukashenko regime does not represent the people of Belarus, who continue to sacrifice in their courageous struggle for democracy. We #StandWithBelarus.