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Britain spends £140k on Myanmar army

17 February 2015 9:53

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The UK spends around £140,000 of taxpayers’ money on training the Myanmar army, which is accused of the recruitment of child soldiers, journalist intimidation, and using rape as a weapon.

According to the recent revelation by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), 60 Myanmar military officers took part in training course led by the British government in 2014, The Telegraph reported.

The funding has sparked criticism over what one British MP refers to as “war crimes” which are carried out by Myanmar’s military.

According to the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting, in 2013 and 2014, 126 children were allegedly recruited in to the country’s army.

There are also reports of over 100 cases of rape being used by some Burmese officers as a weapon of war.

The army also faces accusations of threatening journalists inquiring into the country’s human rights records.

The Myanmar government has also been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups for failing to protect the Rohingya Muslims.

The MoD’s full scale of involvement with the Myanmar’s military surfaced this week following questions asked of Labor party MP Valerie Vaz.

“The Burmease Army is perpetrating what I would say is a war crime by using rape as a weapon. They should be protecting their own citizens not raping and murdering them,” Mrs Vaz said.

“It is a grave matter of concern that UK Government money could possibly being going into an organization that is perpetrating these terrible crimes.”

Child Soldiers

Recently, the charity organization Child Soldiers International referred to Myanmar’s use of child soldiers in its report, titled Under the radar: Ongoing recruitment and use of children by the Myanmar army.

The NGO acts as an information center for related child advocacy organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

“Since the Myanmar government has committed to ending child soldiering and taken measures to address it in collaboration with the UN, we do not oppose training on international standards being delivered to the Myanmar military provided the UK includes in its training a direct dialogue on ending child recruitment and use,” said the charity’s Asia program manager Charu Hogg.

“They should explicitly raise the issue of reform in the Myanmar military’s recruitment practices including through monitoring and oversight.”

The government’s defense

British First Secretary of State William Hague has earlier defended the government funding.

“It is always difficult to make decisions about whether to give training to an army where crimes have been committed or alleged, but part of the argument for that training is to ensure that such crimes are not committed in future. That is why such decisions have been made in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

Rohingya Muslims

Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been persecuted and faced torture, neglect, and repression since the country’s independence in 1948.

The UN recognizes Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims as one of the world’s most persecuted communities.

Myanmar’s government, which replaced junta rule in 2011, has vowed to end the civil wars, which have been flaring on and off since independence, as a key part of its reforms.

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