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Indonesian state firms accused of selling arms to Myanmar junta

Jakarta Post - October 3, 2023

Dio Suhenda, Jakarta – A coalition of human rights organizations and former attorney general and respected human rights defender Marzuki Darusman, have officially requested that the National Commission on Human Rights (KomnasHAM) investigate alleged arm sales by state-owned arms manufacturers to the Myanmar junta, which they say potentially took place after the 2021 coup.

The arms deals allegedly took place between Myanmar's military junta government and state-owned companies PT Pindad, shipbuilder PT PAL and aircraft maker PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI). The firms have categorically denied the allegations leveled against them.

The companies are accused of having promoted and sold "handguns, assault rifles, ammunition, combat vehicles and other equipment to the Myanmar military over the last decade". The arm deals, according to an open-source investigation initiated by Justice for Myanmar, allegedly continued after the coup by the junta against the civilian government led by the National League of Democracy (NLD), the nation's ruling party, in February 2021.

Formal complaint

The groups, the Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP) and the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), and Marzuki lodged the complaint with Komnas HAM on Monday, through their legal representatives Themis Indonesia.

"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. Indonesia's Human Rights Commission has a mandate to investigate, and I urge it to do so," Marzuki said in a joint press release announcing the filing of the complaint.

In their complaint, a copy of which was received by The Jakarta Post on Sunday, the group alleged that Pindad had been selling arms to Myanmar through arms broker True North Co. Ltd., with which Pindad has a cooperation agreement. True North is owned by Htoo Htoo Shein Oo, the son of the Myanmar junta's planning and finance minister, Win Shein. The company is also listed as an official supplier to Myanmar's military-procurement directorate.

While Pindad had been selling its arms to Myanmar since 2014, the group alleged that there was evidence showing that Pindad still upheld its arms agreement even after the coup. This appears to have been corroborated by the fact that Pindad listed Myanmar as one of its export markets in a company press release issued in July, following President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's visit to the company's ammunition factory.

Pindad, PAL and PTDI are the three Indonesian state-owned enterprises listed by True North as its strategic partners in a company brochure.

Potential rights abuse

The petitioners highlighted the fact that Indonesia was an active member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and was one of four ASEAN countries that voted in favor of a General Assembly resolution that called "on all UN member states to prevent the flow of arms to Myanmar".

The country, they added, also held this year's chairmanship of ASEAN, with one of its main objectives being to improve the sluggish progress in Myanmar's adoption of the bloc's Five-Point Consensus (5PC) for peace.

"Our investigation has turned up damning evidence that suggests shocking double-standards", Chris Gunness, director of MAP, said in Monday's statement. "Myanmar is in human rights freefall, with atrocity crimes and bestial abuses on an industrial scale. An investigation by Indonesia's Human Rights Commission is imperative."

Should Komnas HAM's investigation confirm the arms-deal allegations, the rights body must publicly declare that these arms companies have contributed to serious rights violations in Myanmar, the group said. The government, the group continued, should also immediately cease arms trading with Myanmar.

The sale 'did not happen'

Pindad president director Abraham Mose strongly denied the explosive allegations made by the rights groups, saying that the company had not had any sales to Myanmar since 2016. "We do not even have an MoU [with Myanmar]. We had one in 2016 for munitions, as they needed them for a competition; it was all official," he told the Post.

When asked about why Myanmar was listed as one of the company's export destinations in July this year, Abraham said, "it did not happen. There was a request, but they decided to call it off themselves. It is probably because of the junta, I don't know. But they called it off."

"When Pak Jokowi came to visit Pindad, [the Myanmar government officials] were still interested, and they intended to make a visit after attending the Indo Defense expo. After that, they called it off themselves," he added.

PTDI has also denied the claims."We have never had [any business dealings] with Myanmar, be they directly [with the Myanmar government] or indirectly [through Myanmar-based private companies]," Gita Amperiawan, PTDI president director, said on Monday.

PT PAL and the Defense Ministry, meanwhile, did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

ASEAN's response

Since the Myanmar military overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, the country has been in violent turmoil, and the junta's unwillingness to implement the ASEAN 5PC peace plan, which includes calls for an immediate end of hostilities, has resulted in it being barred from high-level ASEAN meetings.

Following the ASEAN Summit in September, leaders agreed to bar Myanmar from the bloc's 2026 chairmanship. They also agreed to form a troika among past, current and upcoming chairs to engage with Myanmar's stakeholders with more consistency.

According to a report released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on June 28, at least 3,452 people have died at the hands of the military and its affiliates and 1.5 million have been displaced between February 2021 and April 2023, although some local organizations in Myanmar have estimated these numbers to be significantly higher. (ahw)

Source: https://asianews.network/indonesian-state-firms-accused-of-selling-arms-to-myanmar-junta