Myanmar envoy retracts Israel weapons sale claim amid Rohingya crisis


Israeli foreign ministry was forced to issue a second statement reiterating that it has not sold weapons to Myanmar since thousands forced to flee

Nearly half a million Rohingya Muslims fled the Rakhine state after Myanmar's violent crackdown on the minority group (AFP)
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Last update: 
Friday 1 December 2017 15:26 UTC

The Burmese ambassador to Israel has been forced to retract a statement in which he said that Israel had signed an arms contract with Myanmar since the country was accused of ethnic cleansing against minority Rohingyas, local media has reported. 

In the radio interview with the Israeli Army Radio on Thursday, U Maung Maung Lynn said that a new contract was signed during his time as envoy to Israel. He became Myanmar's ambassador to Israel in August 2016. 

He was then called in for a meeting with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, in which he received a dressing down, the Times of Israel reported. 

Following his radio interview, Maung Lynn apologised and then retracted the statement.

The Israeli foreign ministry then reiterated that while it has done so in the past, it no longer sells weapons to Myanmar. Myanmar has been accused by the UN of carrying out a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" against its minority Muslim Rohingya population.

The Israel-manufactured Super Dvora operating off the coast of Myanmar (Myanmar Navy)

“Israel does not sell arms to Myanmar,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

But while it denied new arms sales, the statement made no mention of other security-related products.

In a statement from October, the ministry also said it "vigorously denies false reports disseminated in the media regarding its alleged involvement in the tragedy in the Rakhine region of Myanmar."

Images posted by the Myanmar navy earlier this year, however, showed that Israel had sold gunships which could have been used to shoot at Rohingya refugees attempting to flee the country. 

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors arms sales globally, Israel sold six patrol boats to Myanmar in 2015. 

Arms licenses revoked

Last month, Commtact, an Israeli arms company, told Middle East Eye that the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv had temporarily suspended all Israeli arms licenses to Myanmar. 

Commtact, a subsidiary of the Israeli drone manufacturer Aeronautics Defense Systems, also told MEE it had previously sold military equipment to Myanmar.  

The Defence Ministry, however, refused to confirm or deny if it did suspend all licenses, and said that it did not comment on "export issues".

Thousands of Rohingya have fled the ongoing crackdown into Southern Bangladesh (MEE Graphic)

High Court decision blocked 

In January, a human rights lawyer submitted a petition against arms sales to Myanmar, following visits by Israeli officials to Yangon to discuss further arms sales. 

The High Court, however, issued a gag order in September on the ruling to determine whether it was legal for Israel to sell weapons to Myanmar. 

The gag order meant that documents relating to the petition will be completely blocked. This includes documents related to the current procedures and minutes from an earlier Supreme Court hearing.

Shom Shmueli, who represented the Israeli state, told the court during an open session on Monday that it had no right to interfere in Israel's foreign relations, Haaretz reported. 

At least 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to southern Bangladesh after the Myanmar military began a brutal campaign against the minority group.