Singapore denies involvement in arms trade to Myanmar

Singapore denies involvement in arms trade to Myanmar

On 17 May 2023, Tom Andrews, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, released an extensive report on the ongoing arms trade to Myanmar’s military, identifying Singapore as a key conduit for the transit of spare parts, raw materials, and manufacturing equipment.

However, the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) responded emphatically to these claims, insisting that it prohibits the transfer of arms and dual-use items to Myanmar, and has not been involved in the shipment of arms and related materials to the Myanmar military.

The MFA Spokesperson stated: “UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews noted in his report that the Singapore Government prohibits the transfer of arms to Myanmar. There are no indications the Government of Singapore has approved, or is involved in, the shipment of arms and associated materials to the Myanmar military.”

The comprehensive report, titled “The Billion Dollar Death Trade: International Arms Networks that Enable Human Rights Violations in Myanmar,” provides evidence that Myanmar’s military has imported at least $1 billion USD worth of arms and raw materials for weapon production since the coup in February 2021.

Singapore is noted in the report as a significant jurisdiction for the transit of these supplies. Between February 2021 and December 2022, $254 million USD worth of supplies were dispatched from various Singaporean entities to the Myanmar military, often involving Singaporean banks.

Despite these revelations, Andrews clarified that he had received no information indicating that the Singapore Government has approved, or is involved in, the arms transfers.

The MFA Spokesperson reiterated Singapore’s principled stance against the Myanmar military’s use of lethal force against unarmed civilians, and highlighted its commitment to preventing the flow of arms into Myanmar as per United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution A/RES/75/287 “The Situation in Myanmar”.

The spokesperson further stressed that Singapore would not hesitate to take action against any individual or entity which contravenes its laws and would remain committed to providing humanitarian assistance to support the people of Myanmar.

In addition to Singapore, Russia and China emerged as the chief suppliers of advanced weapon systems to Myanmar’s military, contributing over $400 million and $260 million respectively since the coup.

Furthermore, the report recorded transfers from Thai-based entities, totalling $28 million USD, and Indian-based entities supplying $51 million worth of arms and related materials to Myanmar’s military since February 2021.

Andrews emphasized the urgent need for Member States to act decisively and advocated for a complete prohibition on the sale or transfer of weapons to Myanmar’s military. He also underscored the necessity to target primary sources of foreign currency that the Myanmar junta depends on for arms purchases, including the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise.

The report comes in the wake of the brutal attack on Pazigyi Village in the Sagaing Region on 11 April 2023, which resulted in the death of approximately 170 people, including 40 children, demonstrating the devastating impact of unrestricted arms trade with the Myanmar military.

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