Tue, Jul 17, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar may still get EU choppers

THE GUARDIAN AND AFP , LONDON AND NEW DELHI

Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) of the Indian Air Force's Sarang aerobatics team perform during the Aero India 2005 airshow at the Yelahanka Air Force Base on the outskirts of Bangalore on Feb. 9, 2005. India is considering selling helicopters to Myanmar, Amnesty International said in a report published yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

A EU arms embargo against Myanmar is under threat from an Indian project to sell attack helicopters to the military regime, Amnesty International said in a report published yesterday.

Amnesty and other rights groups say that India is in talks with Myanmar about supplying its Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), which contains components and technology from as many as six EU countries, including Britain.

In a report, Amnesty, Safer-world and 14 other organizations in Europe say they have learned from credible sources that the Indian government is planning to supply the helicopter to Myanmar. They say the case highlights the urgent need for stricter EU arms controls.

The helicopter contains British fuel tanks and gearboxes, rocket launchers from Belgium, rockets, guns and engines from France, brake systems from Italy, and protection equipment from Sweden, and is based on designs drawn up by German companies, says the report. It says British companies involved include FPT Industries, part of GKN Aerospace Services. The company told the human rights groups that it had supplied equipment, including fuel tanks, for the ALH but that these were subject to end-use certificates stipulating that they would not be re-exported.

"The EU embargo explicitly states that no military equipment should be supplied, either directly or indirectly, for use in Myanmar," said Roy Isbister. Saferworld's team leader on transfer controls and small arms.

"What's the point in having an arms embargo if it is not going to be implemented or enforced?" he said.

Helen Hughes, of Amnesty International, said: "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."

The human-rights groups call on the EU to consult immediately with the Indian government.

In New Delhi, a government source who asked not to be named, denied any wrongdoing and said India "does not attach much credence to reports by Amnesty International."

"India does give defense hardware support to Myanmar but the equipment is not offensive ... and not top of the line technology," said the source, asserting that Myanmar was helping in the battle against insurgents in India's northeast.

Another Indian official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the technology concerned was for communications only and not for offensive operations.

The report called on Brussels to begin immediate talks with India with a view to preventing any future sales of the ALH, components or technology to Myanmar.

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