Belarus in Burma for arms talks

The Burmese junta is saddling up to another questionable regime this week as a delegation from the government of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko arrives in Naypyidaw.

The landlocked former Soviet republic has been heavily censured because of political ‘irregularities’ by the country’s self confessed ‘authoritarian’ leader, Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power, despite various controversial elections, since 1994.

Belarus is considered the only non-democracy in Europe and is the only country on the continent to still practice the death penalty.

The high-level delegation led by Raman Halowchanka, first deputy head of the state military and technical committee, arrived on 5 April on a four-day visit to take part in the second meeting of a ‘Belarus-Myanmar [Burma] commission on military and technical cooperation’, committee spokesperson Uladzimir Lawranyuk told the Belarusian news agency, Belapan.

The first meeting of the said committee took place in June last year in the Belarus capital, Minsk. The Belarus delegation is looking to secure defence contracts from the generals in Burma.

“Belarus has established military and technical ties in recent years,” the spokesperson said. “And although foreign currency revenues from contracts with this state remain insignificant, there are certain prospects for the development of cooperation in the military and technical sphere.”

The Burmese government receives arms primarily from China, Russia, Singapore, Ukraine, Israel and Serbia. The military however consumes around 40 percent of the government’s budget, despite the fact that Burma is considered one of the poorest countries in Asia, with over 35 percent of children not receiving a sufficient diet.

In December last year, Russia delivered 20 MiG-29 fighter planes to Burma at a cost of $US570 million. Critics of junta have questioned the motives behind its myopic focus on the military, given that it currently has no external enemies.

A number of world leaders, including Britain’s prime minister, Gordon Brown, and the East Timor leader Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, have called for a global arm embargo on Burma.

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