Indonesian arms firms accused of selling weapons to Myanmar junta

The allegations come as Indonesia’s government faces calls to intensify its efforts to increase pressure on the regime

A former Indonesian attorney general and two activist groups are calling on Indonesia’s human rights commission to investigate the alleged sale of weapons to Myanmar’s military by state-owned companies.

In a complaint filed on Monday, ex-attorney general Marzuki Darusman and his two co-plaintiffs claimed that the Indonesian firms, which they said had sold military hardware to Myanmar over the past decade, may be continuing to supply weapons to the regime that seized power two and a half years ago.

Marzuki, who also led a United Nations investigation into the Myanmar military’s alleged genocide of Rohingya Muslims in 2017, was joined by the Chin Human Rights Organisation and the Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP), a London-based human rights group, in filing the complaint.

The three named companies—PT Pindad, PT PAL, and PT Dirgantara Indonesia—are all state-owned entities. Their involvement in selling weapons to a military accused of multiple atrocities “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.

The claims are based on an open-source investigation by rights advocates that indicated “several Indonesian arms companies may have transferred weapons and ammunition through the intermediary company True North Co. Ltd,” according to the document submitted to the Indonesian human rights commission, Komnas HAM.

True North is owned by Htoo Htoo Shein Oo, son of the junta’s planning and finance minister, Win Shein, who is subject to sanctions by the European Union, United States, and Canada.

“[W]e believe that at least one Indonesian company, PT PAL, continued to transfer ammunition after the coup attempt,” the complainants added in their formal call for a full investigation.

This is the first time that Indonesia—which as the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has condemned the Myanmar military’s attacks on civilians—has been singled out for allegations of arming the junta.

Earlier this year, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar—a panel of experts formed in the wake of February 2021 coup—released a report accusing institutions based in Austria, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine and the United States of “providing supplies that are critical to weapon production” by the Myanmar military.

In May, the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, released a report estimating that the junta had purchased US$1 billion worth of weapons since ousting the country’s elected government, mostly from Russia, China, Singapore, India, and Thailand.

Speaking in the Indonesian capital Jakarta a month later, Andrews urged ASEAN, and his hosts in particular, to do more to isolate the Myanmar regime.

MAP director Chris Gunness told Myanmar Now that the details revealed in the complaint suggest that Indonesia has not been living up to its international commitments, including its support for  a UN General Assembly Resolution calling for “all UN member states to prevent the flow of arms to Myanmar.”

“While talking the talk, Indonesia was selling arms to the junta—after the Rohingya genocide and after the coup,” he said.

On Wednesday, Indonesia’s state-owned defence holdings company, Defend ID, denied the charges against its three subsidiaries.

“PT Pindad does not export defence and security equipment to Myanmar, especially since the UN Security Council’s calls in February 2021,” the company said in a press statement cited by Indonesian news outlet Tempo.

“Defend ID also ensured that PT Dirgantara Indonesia and PT PAL had no arms dealings with Myanmar,” according to the report.

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