Conflicts - TensionsSoutheast Asia

Russian support for Myanmar junta ‘destabilizing’ Southeast Asia, U.S envoy says


Russia’s backing for Myanmar’s military rulers is unacceptable and destabilizing, with Moscow’s supply of weapons helping to fuel a conflict that has become a catastrophe for the Southeast Asian country, a top United States official said in March 2023.

The U.S. is concerned about the wider impact of the escalating crisis in Myanmar since a coup in February 2021 and the advancement of the junta’s ties with Russia, which could seek to establish military bases in the country, U.S. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet said.

“Anyone who is talking to Moscow needs to tell them that their continued military support for the junta is unacceptable. It’s destabilizing,” he said during a trip to Southeast Asia. “And it’s not only a problem for Myanmar, it’s a problem for this region.”

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup that ended a decade of tentative democracy, with thousands of people killed and about 1.5 million displaced, according to the United Nations, as the military seeks to crush resistance. (Pictured: Protesters march during a solidarity rally marking the second anniversary of Myanmar’s military takeover outside the Mynamar embassy in Manila, Philippines, on February 1, 2023.)

Activists and U.N. experts have condemned Russia, the first major power to voice support for the junta, as well as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), for supplying weapons to a military accused of atrocities against civilians.

“What I have seen over the last several years is a military relationship that is only growing,” Chollet said. “I’m more concerned right now about the supply of weapons going into Myanmar from Russia principally.”

Russia has become Myanmar’s closest ally since the coup and as the West ramps up sanctions on both countries, including over Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia’s defense minister and top diplomat have visited Myanmar, while junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has been to Russia several times since 2021.

Chollet said the U.S. considers the crisis “the most acute threat” in Southeast Asia and has backed a regional diplomatic effort to restore peace, while also working with those countries to engage with Myanmar’s democratic opposition.

“We believe that other countries should do the same thing … that they should engage,” he added.


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