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Myanmar’s Military Leaders May Have Purchased Weapons From North Korea: Report

Myanmar’s military government may have recently purchased weapons from North Korea in defiance of sanctions barring DPRK arms trade, according to an upcoming U.N. Panel of Experts report seen by NK News.

The Panel cites information from a member state suggesting that Myanmar enterprise Royal Shune Lei Company Ltd. acted as a broker between the Myanmar military — known as the Tatmadaw — and U.N.-sanctioned Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation. The latter allegedly sent weapons to the Southeast Asian country in mid-2022.

The report does not specify which North Korean weapons or military equipment Myanmar might have acquired.

Royal Shune Lei has no web presence, but corporate records show it has three directors: U Tin Myo Aung, U Aung Ko Ko Oo and Mon Mon Aung. The company did not respond immediately to NK News questions about their possible involvement in arms trade with the DPRK.

Publicly available trade data also shows that Royal Shune Lei procured parts for an Mi-8 helicopter from Russian company AeroTechnikService LLC in 2019. The Myanmar company also received a contract offer for an Ilyushin-76 cargo plane from Serbian “arms and military equipment” dealer VIP Global Logistics, documents show.

The Panel report does not provide any evidence linking these transactions to the alleged Myanmar-DPRK arms deal.

Myanmar has a long history of arms trade with North Korea, ranging from the delivery of DPRK-made 130mm field guns in 1999 to suspected mid-range missile parts in the mid- and late-2000s.

According to the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), an independent group founded by former U.N. officials, Myanmar might have also set up a production line for Hwasong-5 short-range ballistic missiles in collaboration with North Korea.

Two years ago, the Tatmadaw seized power through a coup and they have continued to violently clamp down on civilian resistance and armed ethnic organizations since then.

Yanghee Lee, the former U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar, told NK News earlier this year that Myanmar’s military could turn to North Korea for help crushing dissent in the country. “There had been a lot of technical transfer of knowledge between DPRK and Myanmar over the past few decades,” he said.

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