In July 2021, Indian arms manufacturer Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) exported a remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS)/air defence weapon station to Myanmar, with full knowledge that the item can aid and abet the Myanmar military’s ongoing atrocity crimes. The shipment comes months after the military’s illegal coup attempt and nationwide campaign of terror.
According to data from Panjiva, the shipment included five items: an operational system, a gun mount system, an optical system, a system controller and a drive system.
BEL launched its RCWS for 12.7 mm machine guns on India’s Arjun Mk II battle tank in 2017. According to the press release, the station can also be mounted on high-speed boats. The RCWS allows remote operation of the gun and includes optical sensors, a day camera, thermal imager, and a laser range finder. BEL’s website describes the air defence weapon station features as including automatic loading, automatic target tracking and automated ballistics correction through its fire-control system.
The listed value for the RCWS shipment is over US$600,000 and is likely a single unit that the Myanmar military is trialling, potentially leading to a larger future purchase.
Justice For Myanmar contacted BEL with questions on the RCWS shipment and the ongoing supply of arms and related materiel to the Myanmar military. BEL has not provided a response.
The RCWS transfer follows multiple shipments from BEL to the Myanmar military for a coastal surveillance system, exported to Myanmar immediately before and following the illegal February 1 attempted military coup, which Justice For Myanmar documented in a June investigation. BEL has also provided RAWL-Mk II radar equipment for the Myanmar Navy.
In June 2021, India abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution calling on “all member states to prevent the flow of arms to Myanmar”, noting that the views of member states were not reflected in the resolution text. This raised grave concern.
BEL’s majority shareholder is the Indian Government, which holds over 51%. Its biggest international shareholders include the Indian subsidiary of Nippon Life Insurance Company, with holdings worth US$250 million, and Goldman Sachs Asset Management, with holdings worth US$235 million, according to company filings.
The OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights compel institutional investors to use their leverage to ensure their investee companies act to prevent or mitigate human rights abuses. Investors are expected to divest from companies like BEL that have repeatedly failed to uphold their human rights responsibilities.
In July 2021, Nordea Bank placed BEL on its exclusion list for exporting arms to Myanmar. More investors must now follow.
Mega Hill General Trading
BEL’s July shipment was sent to Mega Hill General Trading, a private Myanmar military contractor that has a history of procuring technology and providing services to the army’s Directorate of Procurement.
According to leaked documents and the company’s own website, Mega Hill General Trading has procured, or attempted to procure, items from a network of international suppliers, and has provided support such as installation and training. These include:
• A crane for the Myanmar Navy from Global Davit GmbH (Germany)
• Spare parts for the Myanmar Navy and the servicing of a crankshaft for the UMS Chindwin, which was carried out in Singapore by Dieselman Marine Singapore Pte. Ltd. See military import request: Download PDF (986kb)
• Frequency counters from Keysight Technologies (USA) for the Myanmar Army’s Directorate of Signals
• Grove crane for the Myanmar Navy, manufactured by the Manitowoc Company (USA)
• Scientific equipment likely for the Defence Services Science and Technology Research Centre from German companies Phywe Systems GmbH & Co. and 3B Scientific GmbH. Also see quotes: Download PDF (539kb) | Download PDF (476kb)
• A pelican hook from Pilotfits Engineering (China). See acceptance of offer from the Directorate of Procurement: Download PDF (4.6mb)
• A VHF direction finder system from Rhotheta Elektronic GmbH (Germany), likely for the Directorate of Signals. See company offer: Download PDF (41kb)
Justice For Myanmar contacted the companies listed above to confirm their business with Mega Hill General Trading and the Myanmar military, and whether they have any ongoing contracts. None of the companies provided a response.
Mega Hill General Trading is owned by Moe Kyaw Wai and Ei Ei San Hla, who are husband and wife. Mega Hill General Trading also has a company in Singapore, known as Mega Hill (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. The company in Singapore has different directors and shareholders to those of the Myanmar company. See performance guarantee: Download PDF (248kb)
In 2019, Myanma Foreign Trade Bank offered a performance guarantee to the Myanmar Army’s Directorate of Procurement, for a USD$145,000 contract for marine diesel generating sets. This guarantee specifies that Mega Hill General Trading (Myanmar) acts on behalf of Mega Hill (Singapore) as the contracted party.
Mega Hill General Trading is also linked to the Singapore broker Reliance Products Pte. Ltd. A leaked Ministry of Defence document shows that Mega Hill General Trading procured two hydraulic cranes for the Myanmar Navy, and equipment for the Defence Services Science and Technology Research Centre in the 2015-16 fiscal year. These purchases were made through Reliance Products Pte. Ltd.
This company is owned by Maung Shwe Tint and has a branch office in Myanmar, known as Reliance Global Company Limited. Its listed services include customs brokerage, freight forwarding, warehousing and import and export clearance.
Reliance Global also provides cargo insurance brokerage, which would be a lucrative business for companies serving the Myanmar military. The August 2020 offer acceptance from the Directorate of Procurement specifies that the supplier must provide insurance from a “reputable insurance company in Singapore” for items procured. This suggests that Singapore’s insurance industry is playing a key role in Myanmar military supply chains.
Mega Hill General Trading is also linked to the Myanmar business Lion Zone Company Limited, registered at the same address. Ei Ei San Hla is a former director and shareholder of Lion Zone, which is owned by her brother, Ye Thu Hla. Leaked Ministry of Defence documents show that Lion Zone was contracted to supply a plating machine and other tools for the Myanmar Navy in 2017. Lion Zone’s former director, Pwint Phoo May, is now a director of Mega Hill (Singapore).
Stop arming Myanmar military terrorists!
The RCWS shipment from BEL shows the urgency for a global arms embargo to stop the supply of weapons and related materiel that the Myanmar junta needs to continue its deliberate attacks against civilians. The Myanmar military is a terrorist organisation. Since the attempted coup, more than 1150 people, including children, have been murdered by the military junta, and over 8700 people have been arrested. The military has committed rape and sexual violence against women, and indiscriminately bombed and shelled communities, causing further deaths, property destruction and mass displacement. BEL, Mega Hill General Trading and other businesses that supply the Myanmar military are complicit in these atrocity crimes.
Justice For Myanmar calls for an immediate global arms embargo to stop these abhorrent exports to Myanmar.
The international community must impose targeted sanctions against Mega Hill General Trading, its network, and all other Myanmar military arms brokers.
November 2020 Mega Hill General Trading quote to the Directorate of Procurement: Download PDF (603kb)
January 2021 Mega Hill General Trading Naval training technical proposal: Download PDF (296kb)
January 2021 Mega Hill General Trading technical specification letter for the Myanmar Navy tender: Download PDF (136kb)