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International arms restrictions against Myanmar coup unlikely to deliver results, says GlobalData


Australia has suspended its military cooperation with Myanmar in response to the recent martial coup. Australia had reportedly maintained a limited bilateral defence co-operation program with Myanmar’s military, restricted to only non-combat areas such as English language training. Whilst there has been international rhetoric condemning the coup in Myanmar, in terms of concrete action, fresh arms restrictions are unlikely to yield results, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.


According to GlobalData’s report, ‘The Myanmarese Defense Market –Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2025’, 77.8% of Myanmar defense imports between 2015-2019 came from three countries: China (48.5%), Russia (15.5%) and India (13.8%).


Harry Boneham, Associate Aerospace and Defense Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The latest arms restrictions are unlikely to produce results due to a combination of pre-existing restrictions and a short list of heavily involved import partners. Meagre relationships with states such as Australia limits the exposure of Myanmar’s military to catastrophic restrictions. Conversely, countries with extensive arms relationships such as China, Russia and India look reluctant to impose new restrictions.”


For example, China is standing by its Belt and Road partner. The country agreed to accelerate closer ties under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor the week prior to the coup, blocked a UN Security Council statement condemning the coup the week following the coup, and now appears to be attempting to use the crisis to enhance its position as a regional power by acting as mediator. The reluctance of key defense import partners to limit arms transfers renders sanctions from others purely rhetorical.


Boneham concludes: “The EU and the UK have maintained an ‘arms embargo’ on Myanmar since 1991, and the US also continues to block the arms sales. This obviously limits the amount of action these countries can undertake in directly imposing fresh restrictions against Myanmar. Instead, they can lobby states with existing relationships to impose sanctions. However, there may be some scope for partners such as Israel and India to be pressured to reduce or restrict the transfer of arms to Myanmar.”

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