Myanmar's military junta expressed Thursday its support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, placing itself at odds with most of the world community which has condemned the military action and moved to introduce crushing sanctions on Moscow.
In an interview with VOA Burmese, General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesperson for Myanmar's military council, cited the reasons for the military government’s support of the action by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"No. 1 is that Russia has worked to consolidate its sovereignty," he said. "I think this is the right thing to do. No. 2 is to show the world that Russia is a world power."
Countering Myanmar's military junta, the government in exile issued a statement in support of Ukraine on Friday, saying on Twitter that "The National Unity Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar condemns the unprovoked acts of war directed against Ukraine and its people."
The shadow government called the attacks "terrifying" and said the "current situation in Ukraine is a violation of the United Nations Charter and international law and is not a good example in the 21st century. Moreover, it will be a major obstacle to the maintenance of international peace, security, and human development. Myanmar stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine."
Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing visited Russia in June last year and there are strong ties between the Burmese and Russian militaries. Russia is one of the few countries to have defended the military council that seized power in a Feb. 1, 2021, coup, overthrowing the civilian government and detaining de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other high-ranking officials.
Since then, U.N. and Burmese experts have repeatedly called for a ban on arms sales to the military council, but Russia has ignored the call.
As justification for the February takeover, military officials claimed widespread fraud in a November 2020 general election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide. The international and local election observers verified that the 2020 vote was mostly free and fair except for negligible discrepancies.
Suu Kyi has faced a raft of charges since she was taken into custody when the military seized power. She has already been sentenced to six years' imprisonment after being convicted of illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions.
She is also being tried on the charge of violating the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. Australian economist Sean Turnell, who was her adviser, is a codefendant.
On the first anniversary of the coup, the United States announced more sanctions on individuals and entities associated with the regime. Among those sanctioned were Union Attorney General Thida Oo, Supreme Court Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo and Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission Tin Oo.
Two entities sanctioned are KT Services & Logistics Company Limited and the Directorate of Procurement of the Commander-In-Chief of Defense Services, which the U.S. says support the military regime.
The country gained independence from Britain in 1948. It was ruled by the armed forces from 1962-2011, when a new government began returning to civilian rule.