Western Companies Aid Myanmar Military Weapon Production, Finds Report

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According to a report by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), companies from at least 13 countries, including in Europe, Asia and North America, have been supporting the Myanmar military to manufacture weapons that are widely used for committing human rights atrocities. 

Every since the Myanmar junta forcibly seized power through a violent coup in February 2021, it has killed 2,730 people and arrested over 17,200 in order to quash any resistance.

Now a new report has come to light which states that companies domiciled in Austria, France, China, Singapore, India, Israel, Ukraine, Germany, Taiwan, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, “have been providing supplies that are critical to weapon production in Myanmar by the Myanmar military’s Directorate of Defence Industries (DDI) at arms manufacturing factories commonly referred to as KaPaSa”.

From airstrikes to shootouts, weapons made in Myanmar have been consistently used to commit commit widespread human rights violations that amount to the most serious crimes under international law, says the report.

In response to embargoes and sanctions imposed on Myanmar by other countries that has restricted its access to military weapons produced elsewhere, the junta has invested heavily over many years to build up its capacity to produce arms domestically, particularly small arms and light weapons.

“Foreign companies are enabling the Myanmar military – one of the world’s worst human rights abusers – to produce many of the weapons it uses to commit daily atrocities against the Myanmar people,” said Yanghee Lee of SAC-M.

“Foreign companies and their home states have moral and legal responsibilities to ensure their products are not facilitating human rights violations against civilians in Myanmar. Failing to do so makes them complicit in the Myanmar military’s barbaric crimes.”

Sources referred to the report include “leaked budget-related documents from the Myanmar military-controlled Ministry of Defence and the DDI, shipment records, interviews with individuals formerly associated with the Myanmar military and photographic evidence shared by them as well as open-source materials”.

“Weapons produced at the Myanmar military’s KaPaSa factories have been used to commit human rights atrocities for decades,” said Chris Sidoti of SAC-M.

“States must investigate and, if necessary, initiate administrative or legal proceedings against companies whose products we have identified as enabling the DDI to produce weapons used by the Myanmar military in its indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Foreign companies that profit from the suffering of the Myanmar people must be held accountable.”

The SAC-M report states that companies identified in its research may be contravening various export controls and other restrictive measures that apply in relation to Myanmar, the Myanmar military and companies associated with it. It is also likely that they might be failing to uphold their international responsibilities to respect human rights under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

There is ample video and photo evidence available that highlights how “DDI-made weapons were used during lethal crackdowns on peaceful protests in response to the attempted coup of February 2021, and during the genocidal atrocities against Rohingya in 2016 and 2017. Companies involved in the provision or supply of essential products to the DDI may be found complicit in these and other atrocities committed by the Myanmar military,” says the report.

“The Myanmar military has built a robust arms manufacturing industry that makes it largely self-sufficient in its ability to produce the small arms, light weapons and ammunition it uses to brutally suppress the Myanmar people,” said Marzuki Darusman of SAC-M.

“However, the DDI’s reliance on external supplies to sustain its weapon production means it is still vulnerable to external pressure. UN member states should do everything in their power to restrict the Myanmar military’s access to those supplies to protect the Myanmar people, including by adopting targeted sanctions against the KaPaSa, its leadership and its network of brokers.”

Recently, Indonesia announced that as the Chair of ASEAN in 2023 it would be establishing a special office to deal with the Myanmar crisis.