Airbus and a British conglomerate are involved in deals to supply planes to Myanmar Air Force, leaked files reveal

A British conglomerate that part-owns the Cathay Pacific airline is helping Myanmar’s military to convert a passenger plane into a luxury jet via one of its subsidiaries, activists revealed on Tuesday. 

The Tatmadaw has agreed to pay $4.8m to convert an Airbus A319-112 into a private jet that will include reclining ottoman seats, military procurement files released by Justice For Myanmar show. 

The conversion is set to be carried by the Hong Kong-based HAECO Xiamen, which is a subsidiary of a company owned by the UK-based Swire Group.

A Myanmar company called Aero Sofi has a contract with the Myanmar Air Force to facilitate the deal, while the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department will certify the conversion of the plane, the leaked files show. 

“The information being made public today exposes the greed and corruption of the Myanmar military cartel, and its international business networks that enable the military’s continued criminal conduct,” said Yadanar Maung, Justice For Myanmar’s spokesperson.

“Domestic and international businesses that supply the Myanmar military

risk aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” she added.

Neither HAECO Xiamen nor Aero Sofi immediately responded to requests for comment on Tuesday. 

Aero Sofi is also acting as an intermediary to help the military purchase two Airbus CASA C-295s from the Royal Jordanian Airforce for $38.6m, the files revealed. 

The C-295 is manufactured by Airbus’ defence division and is used to transport troops and to deploy paratroopers. 

Under the deal, eight pilots and four mechanics would receive training “at the facility of Airbus-CASA military training services in Seville Spain” or another location, the files show. 

Source: Justice For Myanmar

Justice For Myanmar said it was unable to confirm the current status of the sale but that it is scheduled to be completed on December 30. 

“If completed, Airbus support and certified training would breach the EU arms embargo on Myanmar,” the group said in a statement. 

“Airbus and their partners must ensure the Myanmar Air Force is denied the use of Airbus technology,” it added. 

Airbus did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

A United Nations Fact Finding mission has urged all companies to completely sever business ties to the Myanmar military, saying that foreign and local firms have helped to fund military operations that amount to atrocity crimes against the Rohingya in Rakhine state, as well as against other minority groups.  

The contract to convert the Airbus A319 was signed between Brigadier General Soe Tin Latt of the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and Patrick Aung, managing director of Aero Sofi. The signing was witnessed by Sai Kham Park Hpa, a UK citizen who runs Aero Sofi.

The Myanmar Air Force is required to pay the $4.8m to a Singaporean account of a firm called Asia Trading Group, which is 45% owned by Sai Kham Park Hpa.

Justice For Myanmar said: “Aero Sofi’s business ties with the Myanmar military are evidence of a domestic arms procurement industry that bypasses sanctions and arms controls, reaping  profits from Myanmar’s ongoing civil war in ethnic areas, where the military is continuing to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.” 

The group also alleged that the deal appeared to involve corruption, citing a sum of $2.38m in the procurement file that is allocated for spending on “others”. 

“Failing to provide any details of the biggest sum in the contract is unacceptable,” it said. “Without any democratic oversight, military contracts like those with Aero Sofi will continue to drain the wealth of the people of Myanmar, transferring public funds into the hands of military generals and their cronies.” 

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