DSEI arms fair: No answer on whether UK will stop training Burmese military as Michael Fallon gives keynote speech

PUBLISHED: 15:16 13 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:26 13 September 2017

Defence secretary Michael Fallon at DSEI (Picture: Alex Shaw)

Defence secretary Michael Fallon at DSEI (Picture: Alex Shaw)

Alex Shaw

Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon today did not confirm if Britain would end a military training contract with Myanmar amid UN allegations of ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar had pursued a “brutal security operation” against its Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine State, the UN high commissioner for human rights said on Monday.

Speaking in Geneva, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said reports of civilian killings and the burning down of homes were “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Asked whether the UK would stop the deal, Sir Michael said: “We’ve made it very clear that the violence that is being seen against the Rohingya people is obviously unacceptable and that our ambassador has made representations to that effect to the Burmese regime.

“Just as [with] the arms that we export to any country, the training that we provide to any country obviously has to meet our criteria and is kept consistently under review.”

The defence secretary was speaking at the world’s largest arms fair, the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) conference in Docklands.

In his keynote speech, Sir Michael said he wanted UK arms exports to increase after Brexit.

“Even as we look to sell more platforms, we will continue banging the drum for British systems, from Scotland to Southampton,” he said, adding: “So we’ve got high hopes for UK companies.

“And what better place to bring the message home than DSEI, where the kit is the star of the show and where the globe’s investors gather in one place.

“All those looking to become exporters will find help at hand.”

More than 34,000 people are expected to attend the four-day fair, which opened on Tuesday.

Six of the 56 countries invited to attend DSEI feature on the Foreign Office’s human right watch list. Three of these – Bahrain, Colombia and Saudi Arabia – are listed as “core markets” for arms dealers by the Defence and Security Organisation, part of the Department for International Trade.

The UK is the second biggest arms exporter in the world.

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