Top Myanmar official to visit Russia

A top general from military-ruled Myanmar will make an official visit to Russia on Sunday, the first trip by a senior leader in more than four decades, diplomatic officials said.

The visit by Gen. Maung Aye is expected to focus on a range of military and defense issue as Myanmar seeks to modernize its weaponry, said Asian diplomatic officials, speaking on customary condition of anonymity to avoid breaking protocol.

Since the ruling military took power in 1988, Russia has played a major role in the modernization of Myanmar's army. The Southeast Asian nation has bought MiG-29 fighter jets and Mi-17 helicopters from Moscow.

Myanmar is one of the world's poorest countries but has one of the region's largest armies, used mainly to crack down on dissent and fight against ethnic minority rebels.

Gen. Maung Aye, 68, the No. 2 general in the military junta, is to be accompanied by an entourage of high-ranking officials, including the ministers of foreign affairs, commerce, science and technology, the officials said. He will be the highest ranking leader to visit Russia since a trip by late Myanmar dictator Gen. New Win in 1965.

The military has ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, since 1962. The current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy uprising and it has been accused of rampant human rights abuses.

The United States has proposed putting Myanmar on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council, a means of formally discussing the actions of the military junta, but Russia and China, both of whom hold veto power, have objected, reports the AP.


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