German-linked trucks feature in brutal Myanmar crackdown

March 29, 2021

On 27 March, in a show of brutal force, the Myanmar military killed at least 114 people in a single day, including a five-year-old boy on what was known as Armed Forces Day. Out of 459 people killed by the Myanmar military, nearly 170 people are 25 years old and under. Bodies of night watchmen were burned in the streets of Mandalay, while those driving past police were shot and killed indiscriminately. In Karen State, the Myanmar military intensified its attacks, targeting villagers and killing children as they launch air raids at night.  

As the Myanmar military junta intensifies its bloody repression of peaceful protests, one model of vehicle is ubiquitous in supporting the unfolding brutality: Sinotruk.

Documented at major protest sites, the Myanmar army has a large fleet of Sinotruk vehicles that play an indispensable role in moving troops. Sinotruk vehicles have been used to stage attacks against civilians involving live ammunition which amounts to crimes against humanity. Sinotruk vehicles have also been used to transport those arbitrarily detained.

As a backbone of the military’s logistics network, Sinotruk is complicit in the crimes being committed with its vehicles.

German truck manufacturer MAN is a major strategic shareholder in Sinotruk Hong Kong. Through their partnership with Sinotruk, MAN is directly linked to the Myanmar military’s grave human rights violations and must act now to end its complicity.

Sinotruk and Myanmar

China National Heavy Duty Truck Group (Sinotruk or CNHTC) is a state-owned truck manufacturer, established in the 1930s in Shandong, China. In 2007, Sinotruk listed the subsidiary Sinotruk (Hong Kong) Limited on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It also has a subsidiary listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, Sinotruk Jinan Truck Co., Ltd. Beyond the publicly listed units, it has ownership in over 60 subsidiaries. Sinotruk produces vehicles and parts that are exported to over 100 countries, including Myanmar.

Sinotruk has several entities active in Myanmar. In 2011, Sinotruk signed an agreement with No1 General Heavy Industries Enterprise to upgrade the No1 Myanmar Automobile Plant using a loan from China. The upgrade allowed for production and assembly of Sinotruk’s HOWO model truck.  The trucks visible at recent protests across Myanmar appear to be Sinotruk’s HOWO model. Since the illegitimate February 1, 2021 military coup, No1 General Heavy Industries Enterprise is now under control of the military junta.  

Sinotruk has a factory in Mandalay, owned by its CDW Sinotruk Myanmar subsidiary. Pictures on the company Facebook page only show commercial vehicle production and sales. The company has sold fire trucks to the Myanmar government, under the Ministry of Home Affairs.  CDW Sinotruk Myanmar appears to be owned by Sinotruk Chengdu Wangpai Commercial Vehicle Co., Ltd. (Sinotruk CDW), a joint venture of Sinotruk Hong Kong and Chengdu Motor group.  

In 2017, a Myanmar buyer visited Sinotruk in Chengdu. The individual, who Justice For Myanmar has been unable to identify, is described in a Chinese language media report as “one of the largest suppliers of the Myanmar government and military procurement projects, and has long-term and good cooperative relations with the Myanmar Central Government Procurement Department, the Development Agency and local governments at all levels.” This suggests the involvement of a middleman company in the military’s procurement of Sinotruk vehicles.

Myanmar military’s use of Sinotruk

Sinotruk has been identified at protests around Myanmar. A Süddeutsche Zeitung investigation found photos and videos of Sinotruk vehicles at protests in Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw.  

Photos of Myanmar soldiers firing slingshots and air rifles from Sinotruk vehicles have been widely circulated on social media.

According to a military blog, heavy duty MILTRUK-branded vehicles are used by the Myanmar military under licence from Sinotruk. Concerningly, these may also be manufactured in Myanmar by the military, although Justice For Myanmar could not confirm this.

The military’s MILTRUK fleet has been featured at Armed Forces Day parades mounted with missiles, including on March 27, 2021, the bloodiest day since the coup in which at least 114 people were deliberately killed by junta forces.

Germany’s responsibility

Under the OECD Guidelines for Responsible Business and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, businesses have a responsibility to prevent human rights violations linked to their operations and relationships. Governments also have a key role in ensuring that businesses in their territory respect human rights.

As a major partner of Sinotruk, with four seats on the Sinotruk Hong Kong board, MAN must use its leverage to end all Sinotruk business with the Myanmar military. MAN must also conduct a supply chain investigation to ensure no links remain between MAN, Sinotruk and the Myanmar military.

A MAN spokesperson told Süddeutsche Zeitung that that they were unaware of Sinotruk’s business in Myanmar, showing a dangerous lack of human rights responsibility that must now be rectified.

Germany also has an urgent role to play in ending German corporate complicity and responding to the continued atrocities committed by the Myanmar military. Germany must urge the EU to impose targeted sanctions against the Myanmar military, their businesses and significant business partners. Germany must advocate for a global arms embargo so businesses like Sinotruk can no longer aid the Myanmar military’s crimes.