Burma Campaign UK today condemned the governments of Germany and Austria for inviting Min Aung Hlaing, head of the Burmese military, to visit their countries this week.
Earlier this year, the United Nations reported how Min Aung Hlaing’s soldiers had raped ethnic Rohingya women, shot civilians and burned villages. They said these violations could be crimes against humanity.
Last year a report by the United Nations said that human rights violations in Kachin and Shan States, where Min Aung Hlaing’s soldiers have been deliberately targeting civilians, could amount to war crimes.
“Why are Austria and Germany giving special treatment to a war criminal?” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “The only place in Europe which Min Aung Hlaing should be visiting is the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”
In Austria, Min Aung Hlaing was given gifts, taken sightseeing, invited to special dinners and even taken to the factory of a supplier of military aircraft. Austria has also offered military training to the Burmese military. Min Aung Hlaing is delighted, posting regular updates on his Facebook Page.
A report by the United Nations earlier this year detailed horrific human rights abuses by Min Aung Haling’s soldiers against the ethnic Rohingya:
- Min Aung Hlaing’s soldiers stamped on a baby as it was being born.
- Min Aung Hlaing’s soldiers killed a baby because it was crying for milk as they gang raped its mother.
- Min Aung Hlaing’s soldiers shot children in the back as they ran from their burning villages.
Min Aung Hlaing is the biggest obstacle to improving human rights, democratic reform, peace, modernisation, and improving health and education in Burma. Instead of applying pressure on Min Aung Hlaing to end human rights violations, Austria and Germany seem more interested in cosying up to him, perhaps with future arms sales in mind. They can’t try to claim they are engaging him on human rights when they take him sightseeing and to visit military suppliers.
Last year Min Aung Hlaing was given similar treatment by the European Commission, Belgium and Italy. In Italy he also visited factories of military equipment manufacturers. Britain is also providing free training to the Burmese military, at a cost of quarter of a million pounds this year, 67 percent of which comes from Britain’s aid budget.
Officially, the EU still has an arms embargo, but EU member states appear to be competing to buy favour in anticipation of when the arms embargo is lifted or relaxed.
“It is a shameful decision by Germany and Austria to invite Min Aung Hlaing,” said Mark Farmaner. “Being given red carpet treatment like this will encourage Min Aung Hlaing to continue to believe he and his soldiers can continue to violate international law without facing any consequences.”