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Israeli arms manufacturer sent equipment to Myanmar despite US embargo, says report

Company sent shipment to Myanmar in 2019, after Israel announced it would no longer send weapons to the country
Members of the Myanmar military take part in a parade on 27 March 2023
Members of the Myanmar military take part in a parade, on 27 March 2023 (AFP)

An Israeli weapons manufacturer exported equipment to Myanmar despite a US and European Union embargo imposed over the country's genocide against the Rohingya Muslim people, according to a new report published on Thursday.

A report published by the rights group Justice for Myanmar says the shipments were made in 2019. The report includes a letter by Israeli attorney Eitay Mack that was sent to Israeli attorney general Gali Baharav-Miara.

According to the report, in July 2019 the Israeli arms producer CAA Industries shipped equipment to manufacture arms to a supplier of the Myanmar military. The two-tonne shipment included molds for injecting plastic polymers which could be used to manufacture rifle parts like grips and handles.

Middle East Eye reached out to CAA Industries for comment on this report but they did not respond by the time of publication

"CAA Industries has a responsibility to respect international human rights and humanitarian law. Under international human rights standards on business and human rights, CAA Industries has a responsibility to conduct due diligence and prevent or mitigate and remedy any negative human rights impacts linked to the end-use of their products and services," Justice for Myanmar said in a statement.

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"Justice For Myanmar calls for CAA Industries to immediately halt any collaboration, including shipments of accessories for specialised machinery and injection moulds, to Myanmar."

The rights group published images of rifles manufactured by the Myanmar military's arms industries, including assault rifles, sniper rifles, and light machine guns, and have identified grips and stocks with the identical design that CAA sells.

CAA told Haaretz that "most of the company’s products are for civilian use" and that when dealing with defence-related items, it "operates according to the law and according to Israeli Defense Ministry permits and regulation".

"CAA has never conducted defense related deals with countries not approved for defense exports," it said, adding that the information in the report is false.

It added that the company's "plastic products are exempt from defense export controls".

However, according to Mack, the human rights lawyer, the equipment that was sent to Myanmar is defined as dual use, for both civilian and military purposes. The letter he sent to Israel's attorney general demands Baharav-Miara open an investigation into "who approved the sale to Myanmar".

"CNC machining and plastic injection molding are both commonly used and cost-effective ways to produce parts for small arms and other weapons," said the letter.

"The arms produced with the help [of] CAA Industries Ltd equipment, could help the Myanmar's military manhunting and extermination campaign against democracy activists, journalists and the general public."

Providing Myanmar military with know-how

The Justice for Myanmar report says the group which purchased the equipment is the Star Sapphire Group, which Haaretz previously reported had acted as a broker between Israel's defence contractors and the Myanmar military junta. Earlier this year, the US imposed sanctions on the entity.

In 2017, Middle East Eye reported that Israel continued to sell Myanmar weapons and arms as thousands of Rohingya refugees fled the military's violent crackdown in the Rakhine state.

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The weapons sold to Myanmar included over 100 tanks, weapons and boats used to police the country's border, according to human rights groups and Myanmarese officials. This was despite Israel officially saying that year that it would stop exporting weapons to Myanmar.

Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing Myanmar en masse since 2017, at the start of the country's most recent army crackdown against the minority group.

In August 2017, Myanmar's military forced 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh, in a campaign the UN described as "genocidal".

Satellite images show dozens of Rohingya villages burned to the ground by the Myanmar army.

"What makes this deal particularly problematic is that it provides the Myanmar military with the tools to upgrade their small arms and this know-how will remain. It is not a one-off shipment of weapons, but products and tools that can be kept and used for a lot of things," Mack wrote in his letter.

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