Activists say Indonesian state weapons makers supplying Myanmar

By Kate Lamb and Ananda Teresia

JAKARTA (Reuters) -Human rights groups on Tuesday urged Indonesia to investigate suspected arms sales by state-owned companies to Myanmar, where Indonesia has been trying to promote reconciliation since a 2021 military coup triggered widespread conflict.

Groups filed a complaint with Indonesia’s national human rights commission on Monday alleging that three state-owned arms makers had been selling equipment to Myanmar since the coup, according to Feri Amsari, a legal adviser to the activists.

Myanmar has been racked by violence since the military overthrew a government led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi more than two years ago.

The group that drew up the complaint includes two Myanmar organisations, the Chin Human Rights Organisation and Myanmar Accountability Project, and Marzuki Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney general and rights advocate.

They allege in their complaint that Indonesian state arms manufacturer PT Pindad, state ship maker PT PAL and aerospace company PT Dirgantara Indonesia had supplied equipment to Myanmar via a Myanmar company called True North, which they said was owned by the son of a minister in the military government.

State-owned defence holding company DEFEND ID, whose units include PT Pindad, PT PAL and PT Dirgantara Indonesia, said in a statement on Wednesday that the companies had not exported defence equipment to Myanmar after Feb. 1, 2021, when the coup in Myanmar took place.

PT Pindad’s director told media earlier that it had not sold products to Myanmar since 2016.

PT Dirgantara Indonesia said it had never had a contract with Myanmar or related third party.

True North did not immediately respond to request for comment but an undated company profile seen by Reuters showed that it identified the three Indonesian arms manufacturers as “strategic partners”.

The activists said Myanmar had bought various items from the companies, including pistols, assault rifles and combat vehicles.

As chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Indonesia has been trying with few signs of success to engage with both Myanmar’s military and opposition in the hope of facilitating talks.

Indonesia voted in favour of a U.N. General Assembly Resolution calling “on all UN member states to prevent the flow of arms to Myanmar” after the coup.

A spokesperson for Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it was studying the complaint. A defence ministry spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Darusman said the rights commission, known as Komnas HAM, was obliged to investigate given that state-owned firms are subject to government control and oversight.

The UN special rapporteur on Myanmar reported in May that Myanmar’s military had imported at least $1 billion worth of arms and related material since the coup, largely from Russia, China, Singapore, Thailand and India.

(Reporting by Kate Lamb in Sydney and Ananda Teresia in Jakarta; Editing by Robert Birsel)