Myanmar urged to cut N Korea ties

North Korea was an unusual supplier of hardware to Myanmar’s military. Source: Wikimedia

Members of Myanmar’s armed forces may still be cooperating with North Korea although the civilian government and the military leadership publicly oppose such ties, according to Washington.

To bypass sanctions, the junta bought arms from Pyongyang with the White House calling on the new democratic government to break ties in exchange for a normalisation US relations.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said President Barack Obama underscored to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi during their meeting in Washington in mid-September the importance of ending any remaining cooperation.

“We think there are potentially a few residual pockets within the Burmese military, people who might still have some ongoing interactions that are in effect leftovers from five-plus years ago in the era of the military dictatorship,” Russel told the Senate.

“But we think as far as the government is concerned and the military leadership is concerned that they are fully on board and this is something they are working to prevent and eradicate,” he said.

UN Security Council resolutions prohibit arms trading with North Korea but the Burmese junta was a key North Korean customer.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado said Congress had not been consulted adequately before Obama announced sanctions would be cancelled under an executive order.

He said Suu Kyi told Congress that she still supported sanctions on the military-controlled Myanmar Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings, two of the largest companies in the country.

Meanwhile in Myanmar, a court in Mandalay has opened a case against a Dutch tourist for violating visa regulations and insulting religion after he disrupted a Buddhist prayers last week.

The leader of the Buddhist group that performed the ritual filed the case against Klaas Haijtema, 30, saying he unplugged a stereo during Buddhist prayers at about 10:30pm because he was being disturbed in his hotel opposite from the hall.

They said he did not remove his shoes and took the wires from the amplifier, disrupting the recitation to mark the eve of the Buddhist Sabbath.

Haijtema apologised and said he had not intended to disrupt a ceremony.

“I was not aware that the building was related to Buddhism. I was really tired that night and woke up to the noise. I was very angry, and assumed that children were playing music,” he told the court through a translator. “So I went down to the building and unplugged the wires.”

He could be given between six months and five years in jail under the immigration law and a further two years for insulting religion. He is being held at Obo Prison in Mandalay.

“It’s time to review the regulations for the use of loudspeakers. Whoever you are, we can’t escape from that terrible nuisance to our ears!” one Facebook post said.