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NGOs call for investigation into Indonesian state-owned companies’ arms sales to Myanmar junta

Non-Governmental Organizations have urged Indonesia to investigate State-Owned Enterprises’ alleged arms sales to Myanmar junta, amid concerns over human rights violations.

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INDONESIA: In a recent development, multiple UN-affiliated human rights organizations, along with prominent figures such as Marzuki Darusman, the former Attorney General of Indonesia, have called on the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to probe allegations against three Indonesian State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

These SOEs, PT Perindustrian Angkatan Darat (PINDAD), PT Penataran Angkatan Laut (PAL), and PT Dirgantara Indonesia, are suspected of selling arms to the Myanmar junta.

In their request, Marzuki Darusman called on Komnas HAM to conduct a thorough investigation and gather further evidence regarding the alleged involvement of these three SOEs.

He also urged Komnas HAM to establish a special fact-finding team related to the arms trade business and its connection to human rights.

The Chair of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman. (Photo: BBC New Indonesia)

These allegations stem from a complaint report submitted by Marzuki Darusman, which relies on findings from the UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, Tom Andrews.

Andrews stated that the three SOEs had engaged in arms trade with Myanmar before the 2022 coup, and there are suspicions that these transactions continued under the military junta’s rule.

The report outlines grave human rights violations in Myanmar committed by the military junta. Marzuki Darusman stated, “Indonesian business entities, namely PT Pindad, PT PAL, and PT Dirgantara Indonesia, have been involved in these serious human rights violations through arms trading with entities affiliated with the Myanmar military junta.”

The report also alleges that these three SOEs violated Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution, Law No. 39 of 1999 on Human Rights, the Geneva Convention of 1949, and international agreements on arms trading.

Marzuki Darusman further called on the Indonesian government, including the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises, to permanently halt arms trading with the Myanmar military junta “until the conflict situation ceases and a true transition to democracy occurs in Myanmar”, writes the report submitted to the National Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday (3 Oct).

Marzuki emphasized that the three SOEs are suspected of involvement in grave human rights violations by selling weapons to the Myanmar junta, and therefore, Komnas HAM has the authority to investigate their alleged role in these serious human rights abuses.

Komnas HAM, through its Commissioner Hari Kurniawan, confirmed that they received the complaint on Tuesday afternoon. The commission is currently in the process of reviewing the information before making an official statement.

Defend ID, the holding company for these SOEs, has denied any involvement in selling weapons or defence equipment to the Myanmar junta.

The Director-General of PT Len Industri (Persero) Holding Defend ID, Bobby Rasyidin, stated, “We can confirm that there has been no cooperation or sales of defence products from the company to Myanmar.”

Bobby also mentioned that Defend ID has not supplied or exported weapons to Myanmar since 1 February 2021, aligning with United Nations General Assembly Resolution No. 75/287, which prohibits arms supplies to Myanmar.

He added that Defend ID fully supports the UN resolution in efforts to end violence in Myanmar under the current military junta.

Abraham Mose, President Director of PT PINDAD, denied allegations that his company continued to sell weapons to Myanmar.

He stated that PT PINDAD had only sold ammunition to Myanmar once in 2016 for competition purposes. In 2023, Myanmar explored another purchase from PT. PINDAD, but the deal did not materialize. “They cancelled the request,” he told Jakarta Post, on Monday (2 Oct).

PT PAL also denied having any cooperation or sales contracts with the military junta or businesses in Myanmar. Their Corporate Secretary, Edi Rianto, emphasized the company’s commitment to healthy business partnerships and corporate governance.

According to the complainants, these three Indonesian SOEs have had arms sales agreements with Myanmar since at least 2014. Before the military coup in February 2022, they were reported to have sold combat weapons such as rifles, ammunition, and military vehicles to the Myanmar government.

The trade relationship between these SOEs and the Myanmar government was allegedly mediated by a company called True North Company Limited, owned by Htoo Htoo Shein Oo, the son of the current Myanmar junta’s Finance and Planning Minister, Win Shein.

Win Shein has recently faced international sanctions from the United States, Canada, and the European Union for his involvement in the coup and alleged repression of anti-junta groups.

Prior to submitting this report to Komnas HAM, PT PINDAD and PT PAL had openly acknowledged exporting their defence equipment to Myanmar.

For example, during President Joko Widodo’s visit to their offices in July 2023, PT PINDAD stated that they had exported arms, including ammunition, to Myanmar. PT PAL had also been mentioned in various reports as contributing to the construction of the Maottama warship for the Myanmar Navy.

Furthermore, the complainants revealed that a Myanmar military delegation had visited the headquarters of PT. Dirgantara Indonesia (Persero) in Bandung, West Java.

According to their report to Komnas HAM, the Myanmar military delegation had also attended a trade show of aircraft manufacturers at the 2020 Singapore Airshow.

However, the complainants did not specify whether these Indonesian SOEs continued arms exports to Myanmar after the February 2022 coup.

The complainants base their accusations on the 1949 Geneva Convention, which, in its derivative section, refers to the International Red Cross Committee’s statement, requesting countries to sever trade relations in defence equipment with a country strongly suspected of using such weaponry to violate humanitarian law.

Indonesia has ratified the Geneva Convention through Law No. 59 of 1958, and as such, is bound by this international agreement. Moreover, the complainants argue that the arms sales to Myanmar also contravene Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution and Law No. 39 of 1999 on Human Rights.

Indonesia currently holds the ASEAN Chairmanship and is part of the Troika (a conflict resolution group) under Laos’ leadership next year to facilitate the implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus.

Civil society groups in Indonesia believe that Indonesia must demonstrate to the people of Myanmar that it is taking concrete steps to investigate these allegations.

Chris Gunnes, Director of the Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP), remarked, “Our investigation has uncovered evidence of shocking double standards.”

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