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Last Updated: Monday, 16 July 2007, 00:47 GMT 01:47 UK
'Threat' to EU-Burma embargo
Burma's military leader Than Shwe at a parade in March 2007
Burma's military junta has been accused of gross rights abuses
A European Union arms embargo against Burma is being threatened by Indian plans to sell an attack helicopter to the Rangoon regime, a new report says.

The report, from Amnesty International and a number of other NGOs, focuses on India's Advanced Light Helicopter.

It says the ALH includes parts and technology from France, Belgium, the UK, Germany, Sweden and Italy.

Transferring the craft to Burma risks making a mockery of the EU's ban on all sales there, Amnesty says.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, is ruled by a military junta which suppresses almost all dissent and wields absolute power in the face of international condemnation and sanctions.

Greater attention has to be given to the end-use agreements and the re-export of components from EU member states
Helen Hughes, Amnesty International

The generals and the army stand accused of gross human rights abuses, including the forcible relocation of civilians and the widespread use of forced labour, which includes children.

"The EU embargo explicitly states that no military equipment should be supplied, either directly or indirectly, for use in Myanmar [Burma]" Roy Isbister from Saferworld, one of the report's compilers, said.

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

Foreign technology

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the ALH can be used for a variety of tasks.


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It has an anti-tank role but can also be used for counter-insurgency operations and can be equipped with both rockets and a 20mm gun.

Unarmed versions can be used for logistical support and observation.

The ALH was developed in association with Eurocopter Deutschland and is built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited - whose helicopter division has in the past produced machines based on French designs.

According to the report, the Indian-made helicopter would not even be operational without vital parts from the EU member states, including:

  • Rocket launchers from Belgium
  • Rockets, guns and engines from France
  • Brake systems from Italy
  • Fuel tanks and gearboxes from the UK
  • Self-protection equipment from a Swedish company
  • And German assistance in design development.

Complex trade

Should the proposed transfer go ahead, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK could therefore be undermining an EU arms embargo on Burma in place since 1988, the report's authors say.

Our correspondent says the ALH's development illustrates the complexity of the international arms trade which now involves co-operation and technology transfer as much as simple nation-to-nation sales.
Any country who sells arms to this regime should examine its conscience carefully
David Little, Belgium

Amnesty International's arms control researcher Helen Hughes says that the ALH case shows the need for a tightening of international arms controls:

"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."

Though India is not itself restricted by such an arms ban, the report calls on the EU to begin immediate consultations with its government to press for a rethink on the plan.

Origin of helicopter parts

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