27th Nov 2021

EU arms embargo under threat from Myanmar sale

The EU arms embargo on Myanmar could be undermined by the planned sale of an Indian attack helicopter to the military regime in Rangoon, according to NGOs Amnesty International and Saferworld.

The Indian manufactured Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) was developed in association with Eurocopter Deutschland from Germany. It contains rocket launchers from Belgium; rockets, guns and engines from France; brake systems from Italy; fuel tanks and gearboxes from the UK and self-protection equipment from a Swedish company.

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  • Myanmar is under the rule of a military junta that has a record of serious human rights violations (Photo: Xianzi Tan)

"Should this transfer go ahead, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK could be undermining an EU arms embargo on Myanmar in place since 1988," said the reports launched on Monday (16 July), adding that it "highlights the urgent need for stricter EU arms controls."

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is under the rule of a military junta that has a record of serious human rights violations, which the UN has described as widespread and systematic. Such abuses include summary executions, torture, and the recruitment of child soldiers.

"The EU embargo explicitly states that no military equipment should be supplied, either directly or indirectly, for use in Myanmar - what's the point in having an arms embargo if it is not going to be implemented or enforced?" said Roy Isbister of Saferworld, which works to prevent armed violence.

The EU currently has arms embargos in place against Myanmar, China, Sudan and Zimbabwe. The US also has an arms ban against Myanmar but India has no such ban against Rangoon.

In a letter to Portugal, the current holder of the EU presidency, Amnesty International has asked the EU to initiate immediate consultations with the Indian government to prevent the arms transfer.

The London-based NGO also calls on the EU member states to discontinue all future production co-operation with India that might lead to transfers of embargoed equipment to Burma if indeed the plans are going ahead.

The loophole of the EU arms embargo is in the member states themselves, the report explained. Some EU capitals have no legally-binding requirement not to re-export the weapons or technology being supplied.

"Greater attention has to be given to the end-use agreements and the re-export of components from EU member states. Otherwise, these states could find themselves indirectly propping up a brutal regime which they themselves have condemned and whose violations have amounted to crimes against humanity," said Helen Hughes from Amnesty International in a statement.

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