Rights group calls for total Myanmar arms ban

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BANGKOK, Oct 11 (Reuters) Humans Rights Watch (HRW) today urged the UN Security Council to slap a total arms embargo on Myanmar's ruling generals because of ''continuing massive violations of human rights''.

The New York-based group singled out India, China and Russia for criticism as the principal allies and suppliers of military hardware to the former Burma's junta, under major diplomatic pressure for last month's bloody crackdown on democracy protests.

''It's time for the Security Council to end all sales and transfers of arms to a government that uses repression and fear to hang on to power,'' HRW Asia director Brad Adams said in a statement.

''Instead of continuing to protect Burma's abusive generals, China and Russia should join other Security Council members to cut off the instruments of repression,'' he said.

Lifting the lid on the murky world of arms sales to one of the most isolated of regimes, HRW said India had sold the junta tanks and artillery this year, weapons used routinely in various simmering guerrilla conflicts in Myanmar's border areas.

The Southeast Asian nation's mountainous, jungle-clad hinterland is home to dozens of ethnic militias, some of which have been fighting the majority Burmese since shortly after independence from Britain in 1948.

Many of the groups have cut ceasefire deals with the junta in the last 15 years, although two major militias - the Shan State Army (South) and the Karen National Liberation Army - continue to wage a low-level guerrilla conflict.

India - which, like China, covets Myanmar's huge natural gas reserves - was getting ready to sell more aircraft, artillery, armoured personnel carriers, tanks, ships and small arms next year, HRW said.

''India's close relationship with the Burmese military is a discredit to the world's largest democracy,'' Adams said.

''The Indian authorities should be leading the efforts to end the supply of arms being used against the democracy movement in Burma.'' HRW also said China had supplied the generals, already subject to European and U.S. arms embargoes, with helicopter gunships, tanks, mortars, small arms and landmines.

The Myanmar military, far and away the biggest in Southeast Asia with 400,000 personnel, also has a small fleet of MiG-29 fighter jets, thought to have been supplied by Russia in 2002.

Despite the unprecedented international pressure on the junta after last month's crackdown, in which the government admitted 10 people were killed, Russia and China are likely to block any formal UN action, as they did in January this year.

REUTERS ARB PM1440

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