Firms from 13 nations implicated in Myanmar arms production

BANGKOK, 16 Jan 2023:

Myanmar’s military junta has been manufacturing weapons that it uses against its own civilians – allegedly using supplies from companies domiciled in at least 13 countries, according to a report by independent international experts.

The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), which is made up of former UN experts on the country, released its report “Fatal Business: Supplying the Myanmar Military’s Weapon Production” today.

It lists Austria, France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, the US, India, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and South Korea as the domiciled countries of companies the SAC-M identified as providing supplies critical to weapons production – in factories (commonly known as KaPaSa) operated by the Myanmar junta’s Directorate of Defence Industries (DDI).

These supplies, it said, range from licensed production and transfers of technology to raw materials, parts and components, end-items, machinery and technology.

“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 the SAC-M’s Yanghee Lee, former UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.

Lee stressed that foreign companies have “moral and legal responsibilities to ensure their products are not facilitating human rights violations against civilians.”

“Failing to do so makes them complicit in the Myanmar military’s barbaric crimes.”

The SAC-M analysed leaked “budget-related” DDI and Ministry of Defence documents, shipment records, interviews with people formerly associated with the Myanmar military and photographic evidence, as well as open-source materials.

“Through its investigation, SAC-M has identified companies supplying raw materials, parts and components, end-items, and high-precision Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines and associated technology to the DDI for the sustained production – both licensed and un-licensed – of weapons currently in its arsenal.

“The report also names front companies, including companies domiciled in Myanmar, and middlemen that enable the DDI to purchase products and services by brokering deals or otherwise acting as intermediaries for the DDI.”

While companies from China and Russia, which have close ties with the junta, do business directly with Myanmar, it said other companies use countries like Taiwan and Singapore as transit points.

The junta, which is under sanctions by the EU, the US and other countries, is accused of genocide against the Rohingya minority in 2017 at the International Court of Justice, the UN’s top court, and also of atrocities against civilians since the military coup of February 2021.

After years of isolation and sanctions, the military manufactures its own weapons and ammunition, including sniper rifles, MA-1 semi-automatic rifles, and Uzi-replica BA-93 and BA-94 sub-machine guns, according to witness statements, and videos and photographs.

The military set up many of its first KaPaSa arms factories in the 1950s with technical support from West Germany and Italy, the SAC-M said, and these now number some 25 across Yangon, Bago, Naypyitaw, Magway and Mandalay regions.

“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 and ex-chair of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.

“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.”

Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has recorded some 2,700 civilian deaths in violence since the 2021 coup, but the true number is believed to be much higher.

– EFE