Sebastian Strangio – Human rights groups yesterday filed a complaint with Indonesia's Human Rights Commission asking it to investigate suspected arms sales by state-owned companies to military-ruled Myanmar.
The 41-page complaint alleges that three state-owned arms manufacturers – arms manufacturer PT Pindad, ship maker PT PAL, and aerospace firm PT Dirgantara Indonesia – may have sold supplies to Myanmar's military, in violation of both Indonesian and international law. The complaint was filed by the Chin Human Rights Organisation, the Myanmar Accountability Project, and Marzuki Darusman, a former Indonesian Attorney General.
"The fact that defense equipment has been actively promoted after the genocidal campaign against the Rohingya and the 2021 coup is cause for serious concern and casts doubt on the Indonesian government's willingness to comply with its obligations under international human rights law and humanitarian law," Marzuki said in a statement announcing the complaint, urging the Commission to investigate the case.
According to leaked documents obtained by the advocacy group Justice for Myanmar, the alleged sales took place via a Myanmar company called True North, which the complaint said was owned by one Htoo Htoo Shein Oo, the son of Win Shein, the military government's planning and finance minister. Win Shein is currently sanctioned by the United States, Canada, and the European Union for his role in the military government.
The complaint does not state what materiel was purchased from the three firms, but cites official company documents from PT Pindad that describe the Myanmar Air Force and Myanmar Navy as among its "valued clients." It also documents a pattern of interactions between the three companies and Myanmar that predate the military's ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya communities of Rakhine State in 2016-17. Specifically, PT Pindad and PT Dirgantara Indonesia may have transferred arms to Myanmar after the Rohingya campaign. It also claims that "at least one Indonesian company, PT PAL, continued to transfer ammunition after the coup attempt."
"The role of True North as a private company negotiating deals between the Myanmar military and Indonesia's state-owned arms companies raises suspicions of potential corruption that should also be investigated by Indonesian authorities," the complaint states.
While the alleged arms sales are likely not a significant part of the junta's total arms shipments – in May, a United Nations expert reported that the military had still managed to import at least $1 billion in arms and other material since the coup – would seem to jar with Indonesia's avowed efforts to resolve the conflict in Myanmar.
This year, as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Jakarta has spearheaded regional efforts to implement the bloc's Five-Point Consensus peace plan, which calls for "inclusive" dialogue involving both the military administration and its array of opponents. However, its efforts have so far borne little fruit, given the obduracy of the military administration in Naypyidaw, which has shown no interest in implementing the consensus.
In June 2021, Indonesia voted in favor of a U.N. General Assembly resolution that called "upon all member states to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar."
[Sebastian Strangio is Southeast Asia editor at The Diplomat.]