Human rights groups called on the Indonesian government this week to investigate suspected arms sales by state-owned companies to Myanmar.
The Joko Widodo government has been trying to promote reconciliation in Myanmar since a coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi before her second-term government was set to take power on February 1, 2021.
The takeover has triggered widespread conflict, across states from the central and upper north to the south and east, which is said to be more serious than any fighting since the country gained independence after World War II.
Groups filed a complaint with Indonesia’s national human rights commission on Monday alleging that three state-owned arms makers had been selling equipment to Myanmar since the coup, according to Feri Amsari, a legal adviser to the activists.
Myanmar has been racked by intensifying violence since the military overthrow more than two years ago.
The group that drew up the complaint includes two Myanmar organisations, the Chin Human Rights Organisation and Myanmar Accountability Project, and Marzuki Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney general and rights advocate.
They allege in their complaint that Indonesian state arms manufacturer PT Pindad, state shipmaker PT PAL and aerospace company PT Dirgantara Indonesia had supplied equipment to Myanmar via a Myanmar company called True North, which they said was owned by the son of a minister in the military government.
PT Pindad and PT PAL did not immediately respond to a request for comment. PT Pindad’s director told media earlier that it had not sold products to Myanmar since 2016.
PT Dirgantara Indonesia said it had never had a contract with Myanmar or related third party.
True North did not immediately respond to request for comment but an undated company profile seen by Reuters showed that it identified the three Indonesian arms manufacturers as “strategic partners”.
Pistols, assault rifles, combat vehicles
The activists said Myanmar had bought various items from the companies, including pistols, assault rifles and combat vehicles.
As chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Indonesia has been trying with few signs of success to engage with both Myanmar’s military and opposition in the hope of facilitating talks.
Indonesia voted in favour of a UN General Assembly Resolution calling “on all UN member states to prevent the flow of arms to Myanmar” after the coup.
A spokesperson for Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it was studying the complaint. A defence ministry spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Darusman said the rights commission, known as Komnas HAM, was obliged to investigate given that state-owned firms are subject to government control and oversight.
Russia, China are main arms suppliers: Andrews
The UN special rapporteur on Myanmar Tom Andrews reported in May that Myanmar’s military had imported at least $1 billion worth of arms and related material since the coup, largely from Russia, China, Singapore, Thailand and India.
Andrews tabled a report with the Human Rights Council entitled ‘The Billion Dollar Death Trade: The International Arms Networks that Enable Human Rights Violations in Myanmar’.
It said the Myanmar military had received at least $1 billion worth of weapons, technology or materials used to make weapons since the coup. He listed over 12,500 purchases or shipments of weapons, and identified “many of the major networks and companies involved in these transactions and the jurisdictions in which they operate.”
He said key deals included:
- $406 million from entities in the Russian Federation, such as state-owned entities;
- $267 million from entities in China, including state-owned entities;
- $254 million from entities operating in Singapore;
- $51 million from entities in India, including state-owned entities;
- and $28 million from entities operating in Thailand.
This involved “helicopters, reconnaissance and attack drones, advanced missile systems, tank upgrades, radio and communication equipment, radar complexes, and components for naval ships, spare parts for fighter jets.
- Reuters with additional editing and reporting by Jim Pollard