Foreign Ministry Denies Weapons Sales to Myanmar

A soldier guards near a house burnt down during violence in Maungdaw, Myanmar, in September. (Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

The Foreign Ministry has vigorously denied allegations that Israel is selling weapons to Myanmar, where government forces have been accused of ethnic cleansing, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday.

The ministry summoned Myanmar Ambassador to Israel U Maung Maung Lynn for an official rebuke following an interview with Army Radio on Thursday morning in which claimed that Israel was still selling weapons to his country.

Maung Lynn later apologized for the statement, according to Gilad Cohen, the ministry’s deputy director general in charge of the Asia and Pacific desk. The ministry noted that it had already rebuked Maung Lynn several days ago for making similar comments.

In the radio interview, Maung Lynn said that Israel put no restrictions on how the weaponry and military technology could be used. Under Israeli law, the end use of defense exports is supposed to be an issue of consideration.

While admitting it had sold weapons to Myanmar in the past, the ministry said it had suspended sales several months ago, in light of the charges of ethnic cleansing.

The statement referred only to weapons sales, but made no mention of other security-related products, like surveillance technology or military training services.

The Israeli government has been under pressure from domestic activists to end military sales to Myanmar, and early in November Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman reportedly froze military export licenses to the country.

“The Israeli defense minister has discreetly but significantly decided to block military export licenses for Myanmar,” the French Intelligence Online magazine reported Wednesday, citing anonymous sources.