Indian officials have been accused of providing the Burmese army with Swedish weaponry used against Kachin rebels in direct violation of European sanctions.
According to a report written by Burma expert Bertil Lintner in the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet yesterday, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) captured an M-3 Carl Gustaf, an 84 mm rocket launcher, along will several shells at a Burmese military outpost in October.
The use of Swedish weapons by the Burmese military violates the EU arms embargo on Burma.
“Sweden has exported that type – it’s the latest model – to only two countries in Asia. One is Thailand. The other is India,” said Lintner in an interview with DVB.
Lintner said the rocket launcher was likely given to the Burmese military by Indian officials to use against Indian rebel groups based in northern Burma.
“India can buy these weapons legally from Sweden, that’s not a problem. But you’re not supposed to pass them onto third countries, especially not to a country like Burma, which is under a very strict EU arms embargo,” Lintner said. “So it’s India that violated the law.”
The shipment of weapons to Burma from India in the past has been used to gain diplomatic favour with a country that has long since been considered in the pocket of regional rival China and to expel anti-Delhi forces from Burma.
The Indian government has continually pushed the Burmese government to remove the Assamese, Naga and Manipur rebels who rely on bases inside Burma’s borders to conduct raids into India.
To India’s chagrin, the Burmese military has remained focused on combating domestic foes and done little to remove Indian rebels from Burmese soil.
According to Lintner the troops that abandoned the Swedish rocket launcher were previously stationed on the Indian border.
The Indian government was unavailable for comment.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry said they learned a few weeks ago about the use of Swedish weapons by the Burmese military.
“This is an issue for the Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls,” said Anders Jorle, head of the press department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Of course, if there has been some misuse of the system of end use certificates that has to be investigated.”
According to a report in the Independent, the Swedish Agency for Non- Proliferation and Export Controls has launched an investigation into the matter.
“It is of immense importance that it is quickly made clear which country these weapons have come from and that any ongoing arms deals or authorisation for licensed manufacturing with this country is stopped,” said Anna Ek, Chairman of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society.
The employment of advanced rocket launchers coupled with the use of Russian-made helicopter gunships represents a dramatic escalation in the government’s dry season offensive against the Kachin rebels.
“What is equally important is for Sweden, and other countries in the EU, to demand that the Burmese army cease offensive operations in Kachin state and call for the Burma government to allow international humanitarian agencies to have unhindered access to provide assistance to internally displaced persons in all parts of Kachin state,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division.
Fighting between the military and the KIA has been ongoing since a 17-year ceasefire disintegrated in June 2011. The military’s offensive against the KIA has displaced more than 75,000 people, while Naypyidaw has largely prevented international organisations from delivering aid to conflict areas.