Complaint targets Indonesian companies for ‘illegal’ arms sales to Burmese military

Tria Dianti and Arie Firdaus
Complaint targets Indonesian companies for ‘illegal’ arms sales to Burmese military Myanmar troops participate in a parade to mark the country’s 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw, March 27, 2023.

Three Indonesian state-owned weapons manufacturers broke the law by selling arms to Myanmar’s military, a former Indonesia attorney general and activists alleged in a complaint filed Monday with the National Commission on Human Rights. 

The plaintiffs, chief among them Marzuki Darusman – the ex-attorney general who had also chaired a United Nations fact-finding mission on Myanmar – are accusing the firms PT Pindad, PT PAL and PT Dirgantara Indonesia of having sold weapons and hardware to the Burmese military over the last decade, including possibly after the February 2021 coup. 

The “illegal sales” consisted of assault rifles, handguns, ammunition, combat vehicles and other equipment, the complaint said. 

“The fact that defense equipment has been actively promoted after the genocidal campaign against the Rohingya and the 2021 coup is cause for serious concern and 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.

Marzuki and the other plaintiffs came out with the allegations while the government of Indonesia still holds the rotating chair of ASEAN for 2023. The administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has been vocal in criticizing the Burmese junta for its role in the post-coup violence but the Southeast Asian bloc has been widely criticized in turn for failing to stop the bloodshed in Myanmar.

While chairing the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, in August 2019 Marzuki and his team called for an arms sales embargo against Naypyidaw. More than a dozen foreign companies, including state-owned companies in China, had been supplying weapons and other equipment used by the Myanmar military against ethnic minorities, the team reported that month.

Joining Marzuki in the complaint lodged with the Indonesian human rights commission (Komnas HAM) on Monday were Salai Za Uk Ling, leader of the Chin Human Rights Organization, and the Myanmar Accountability Project, an international human rights group.

They cited open-source evidence and media reports indicating the Indonesian companies have transferred weapons and ammunition through True North Co. Ltd., a Myanmar-based company owned by the son of a junta-appointed minister. 

The role of True North as a private company negotiating deals between Myanmar’s military and Indonesia’s state-owned arms companies raises suspicions of possible corruption that should be investigated by Indonesian authorities, the group said.

The company’s owner, Htoo Htoo Shein Oo, is the son of the Myanmar junta’s planning and finance minister, Win Shein, who is subject to sanctions by the United States, Canada, and European Union, according to the complaint.

The complaint urges the commission to conduct an assessment, research and investigation into the alleged involvement of the Indonesian companies and to refer the case to the country’s human rights court if there is sufficient evidence of serious human rights violations.

A member of Komnas HAM, Anis Hidayah, said the commission had received the complaint and was studying it. 

Meanwhile, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, spokesman for the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said it was looking into the matter “because it involves verifications with many parties.”    

Marzuki Darusman, chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, gestures during a press conference in Jakarta, Aug. 5, 2019. [Achmad Ibrahim/AP]

Pindad, which manufactures assault rifles, pistols, sniper rifles and automatic weapons, denied selling weapons to Myanmar after the coup. 

“We do not sell weapons to Myanmar. If we ever did, it was in 2016 as an export transaction,” Dianing Puji Rahayu, the company’s corporate secretary, told BenarNews.

“It happened that in 2016 and 2017 there was an AARM (ASEAN Armies Rifle Meet) competition, so it had nothing to do with the situation in Myanmar,” she said. “Moreover, we do not support the post-coup and genocide situation that is reported to be happening there.” 

Dianing apparently was referring to the military’s violence against anti-junta protesters since the 2021 coup and a bloody crackdown on minority Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State that forced about 740,000 of them to flee to Bangladesh beginning in August 2017. 

Bandung-based Dirgantara Indonesia (Indonesia Aerospace) is an aircraft maker while PAL, based in Surabaya, is a shipbuilder. A Dirgantara official referred questions to the country’s defense industry holding company Defend ID. 

In Myanmar, Kyaw Zaw, spokesman for the opposition National Unity Government President’s Office, said calls to prevent the arms sales were in line with the five-point consensus adopted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in April 2021, shortly after the junta seized power. Myanmar is an ASEAN member. 

“Indonesia has been working hard to restore democracy and stop violence in Myanmar. The Indonesian government is engaging with all stakeholders, including the NUG. I would like to appeal to the Indonesian government to investigate the information that Indonesian companies are selling weapons to the Myanmar military and prevent it,” Kyaw Zaw told Radio Free Asia (RFA), a news service affiliated with BenarNews.

He noted that Singapore had recently acted against Singaporean companies that sold weapons to the Myanmar military. 

A military spokesman did not immediately respond to RFA calls requesting comment.


Myanmar has been plunged into chaos and violence since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021. She and other civilian leaders were detained after the coup.

Since then, the junta has faced widespread resistance from pro-democracy protesters, civil disobedience movements, ethnic armed groups and a shadow government formed by ousted lawmakers. 

The junta has responded with brutal crackdowns, killing more than 4,100 people and arresting more than 25,000 others, according to Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

The United Nations has warned that Myanmar is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, with millions of people in need of aid and protection. 

As this year’s ASEAN chair, Indonesia has been trying to mediate a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Myanmar.

At the time of the alleged sales, Indonesia was a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council and supported a U.N. General Assembly resolution that called on all countries to stop supplying weapons.

Chris Gunness, director of Myanmar Accountability Project, called an investigation by Indonesia’s human rights commission “imperative.” 

“Our investigation has turned up damning evidence that suggests shocking double-standards,” he said in a statement. 

Pizaro Gozali Idrus in Jakarta and RFA Burmese contributed to this report.


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