Indian arms maker still selling to Myanmar junta, says activist group

An arms manufacturer majority-owned by India’s government continues to supply Myanmar’s coup regime with weapons through a broker with businesses in Myanmar and Singapore, according to activist group Justice For Myanmar (JFM).

In a report released on Tuesday, JFM said Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) sent a remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS) to the Myanmar junta in July via Mega Hill General Trading, a private military contractor based in Myanmar.

The shipment, valued at more than US$600,000, included five items: an operational system, a gun mount system, an optical system, a system controller and a drive system, the report said.

BEL launched its RCWS for 12.7mm machine guns on India’s Arjun Mk II battle tank in 2017. The station system can also be mounted on high-speed boats, JFM said.

The activist group said the BEL shipment points to the urgent need for a global arms embargo to cut off the junta’s access to foreign-made weapons that can be used against civilians opposed to military rule.

“The international community must impose targeted sanctions against Mega Hill General Trading, its network, and all other Myanmar military arms brokers,” said JFM.

The July purchase followed at least seven shipments of military technology for coastal surveillance sent by BEL to the Myanmar junta since it seized power on February 1. 

JFM also stated that Mega Hill General Trading has a history of procuring technology and providing services to the army’s Directorate of Procurement.

The group said the company has procured, or attempted to procure, items from a network of international suppliers, and has provided support such as installation and training.

According to Myanmar company registration data, the company is owned by Moe Kyaw Wai and Ei Ei San Hla, who are husband and wife. The company also has a Singapore-based affiliate known as Mega Hill (Singapore) Pte. Ltd, whose directors and shareholders are different from those of the Myanmar company, said JFM.

The company also worked with Reliance Products Pte. Ltd in Singapore several years ago to purchase hydraulic cranes for the Myanmar Navy and equipment for the Defence Services Science and Technology Research Centre in fiscal 2015-16, according to JFM.

Reliance Products has a branch office in Myanmar, known as Reliance Global Co. Ltd. Its services include customs brokerage, freight forwarding, warehousing and import and export clearance.

“Reliance Global also provides cargo insurance brokerage, which would be a lucrative business for companies serving the Myanmar military,” JFM said.

Mega Hill General Trading is also linked to the Myanmar business Lion Zone Company Limited, registered at the same address. Citing leaked Ministry of Defence documents, JFM said Lion Zone supplied a plating machine and other tools for the Myanmar Navy in 2017. 

“The military has committed rape and sexual violence against women, and indiscriminately bombed and shelled communities, causing further deaths, property destruction and mass displacement,” said JFM’s report.  

“BEL, Mega Hill General Trading and other businesses that supply the Myanmar military are complicit in these atrocity crimes,” it added.

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