India supplying fuzes to Myanmar military, deepening complicity in its atrocity crimes

July 15, 2022

Indian company Sandeep Metalcraft is supplying fuzes to the Myanmar military, through the Myanmar arms broker, Creative Exploration Ltd (formerly mySpace International or My Space International Company Limited).

On March 25, 2022, Sandeep Metalcraft shipped 3000 fuses to Creative Exploration, with a reported value of US$276,941. Sandeep Metalcraft’s website advertises fuzes designed for use in bombs and artillery and claims to be a “primary supplier” to defence markets in India and around the world, listing the USA, South Africa, Israel and Germany as countries it exports to.

Fuzes are devices that cause detonation in bombs and artillery. India is a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement and is expected to apply export controls on ammunition, which include fuzes, sensors and initiation devices. India has obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to not transfer weapons when there is an expectation they could be used in violation of the Geneva Conventions, or to aid and abet atrocity crimes. India is not a party to the Arms Trade Treaty.

Sandeep Metalcraft is a registered vendor of India’s Ministry of Defence for the production of fuzes, through the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which was recently restructured.  

The March 2022 shipment is the third from Sandeep Metalcraft on record, according to the trade database, Panjiva. In June 2020, 1,000 fuzes were also sent to Creative Exploration (then known as mySpace). In 2019, 5 fuzes were shipped, which may have been samples.

While the 2020 and 2022 shipments did not indicate the specifications of fuzes sent, the 2019 shipment specified the items as time mechanical fuze 447, designed for 84mm recoilless rifles, such as Saab Group’s Carl Gustaf rifles. The Myanmar military has Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles in its arsenal.

Sandeep Metalcraft describes fuze 447 as “sophisticated”, with 127 components. According to the product description, “the time for functioning of the fuze is easily set by the soldier which makes the ammunition function in air burst mode, at a pre-set time.”  

The Myanmar military has used 84mm artillery in ethnic areas. Karen News reported in April that 84mm Carl Gustaf rounds were used in attacks in the Lay Kay Kaw area.  

Saab Group, a Swedish corporation, has had a technology partnership with India’s Ordnance Factory Board for the Carl Gustaf system for more than forty years.

In response to questions from Justice For Myanmar, a Saab spokesperson commented, “We take such claims seriously as we require our supply chain and licensees to strictly adhere to international regulations and national controls on the production and export of defence equipment. We have no business relationship with [Sandeep Metalcraft] and will contact our Indian counterparts for clarification on this matter and to determine if any further action is required."

Saab did not respond to questions on whether FFV 447 would require a Saab licence to be produced, and whether Saab's licence production agreements with Indian companies prohibit or restrict onward exports from India to other countries.

Sweden has investigated earlier transfers of Carl Gustaf rifles from India to Myanmar, circumventing the EU arms embargo and, in 2012, asked India to explain how Swedish weapons had ended up in Myanmar.

The latest shipment of fuzes comes as the Myanmar military continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, including through indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes. Since the military’s illegal coup attempt, an estimated 691,000 people have been displaced. Over 2,000 people have been murdered by the junta, with more than 14,500 arrested.

Fuzes exported to Myanmar directly support the Myanmar military’s indiscriminate attacks. Sandeep Metalcraft’s 2019 and 2020 shipments, predating the military’s coup attempt, came as the military was committing atrocity crimes in Arakan and Chin States.  

By allowing the export of fuzes and other arms to the Myanmar military, the Indian government is deepening its complicity in the Myanmar military’s atrocity crimes.

Who is Creative Exploration/mySpace International?

According to a source with knowledge of the arms trade, Creative Exploration (formerly mySpace International) has been a leading supplier of the Myanmar police, as well as an arms dealer for the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry of Home Affairs has awarded the company a number of Myanmar Police Force Tenders from 2017-2021  

Creative Exploration is owned by Dr Kyaw Kyaw Htun and his wife, Zar Phyu Tin Soe, the daughter of a former military officer who was Myanmar’s ambassador to Russia. Kyaw Kyaw Htun is a former military officer and graduate from the Defence Services Technological Academy. He did a PhD in Russia, likely affiliated with the Institute of Nuclear Physics at Moscow State University, where a person with the same name co-authored a number of articles between 2006 and 2008 on photonuclear reactions.

Weeks after the company was exposed by the New York Times for supplying surveillance technology to Myanmar, it changed its name to Creative Exploration. In March 2022, Zar Phyu Tin Soe left the board of directors. She remains listed as the Myanmar representative of the Russian company March Group, which manufactures stun guns.

The mySpace website, which has been taken down, describes them as a “total security service provider” specialising in CBRNE [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high yield Explosives], counter terrorism, law enforcement, internal security and special forces. The company lists aircraft and naval hardware, unmanned systems, electro-mechanical components, embedded computing solutions and electro-optics and sensors among its military offerings.

Creative Exploration has also imported US digital forensics technology through India. In 2020, the Indian company 3rd Eye Techno Solutions Private Limited sent three shipments to mySpace International, consisting of a USB dongle and cable sets from the US company, Oxygen Forensics, Inc.

Oxygen Forensic Detective, the software distributed via USB dongle, advertises capabilities to decrypt passwords and authentication tokens for social media and messaging apps, to collect data from phones bypassing device security, to analyse call data records from mobile operators with geo coordinates, and to gain access to cloud data.

Leaked budget documents show 2018-19 allocations from the Myanmar Police Force and Bureau of Special Investigations for Oxygen Forensics equipment. 3rd Eye Techno Solutions lists Oxygen Forensics as a partner, alongside other international suppliers of surveillance and digital forensics technology that the Myanmar military has procured or attempted to procure, including Cellebrite and Passware. An archive of the mySpace websites shows Oxygen Forensics, Cellebrite and Passware listed among their main suppliers.

Last year, Oxygen Forensics told former UN arms investigator Mike Lewis,“our records indicate the sale of only one license (in Jan 2019) to organisations in Myanmar… we are unable to monitor the use of our technology but when we are made aware of its use in a way which does not conform to our EULA, international law, or Oxygen Forensic ideals, these licenses are noted, as are the end users, and they cannot be renewed.”

On April 12, 2021, mySpace imported a digital forensics evidence examination station from the Indian company Kwick Soft. The equipment was manufactured by the US firm, Sirchie.  The examination station is likely to aid Myanmar police in the persecution of activists and journalists.

India must end its complicity in the Myanmar military’s crimes

A February 2022 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar on the supply of arms noted a number of weapons transferred to Myanmar from India since 2018 “that have the potential for use against civilians”. These include a jet trainer aircraft from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and a remote-controlled weapons station from Bharat Electronics Limited.

The Special Rapporteur noted India’s “responsiveness” and its explanation that India has “an established system of exercising careful scrutiny to ensure that our defence exports are not used against civilian populations”.

Despite this claim, India’s Foreign Trade Policy makes no mention of human rights, or international human rights and humanitarian law considerations in its foreign trade policy. It mentions only that the Directorate General of Foreign Trade may impose restrictions “in pursuance of country’s obligations under the United Nations Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Sandeep Metalcraft’s latest shipment of fuzes shows that India’s “careful scrutiny” has severely failed, and Indian arms that will be used against civilians continue to flow to the Myanmar military.  

We call on India to immediately impose an arms embargo on the Myanmar military, end business with the military and its partners, and cease all training and other military support, which emboldens the Myanmar military and enables its international crimes.

Sweden must suspend exports and licence production agreements with Indian arms manufacturers for launchers and munitions, and investigate if any of the Sandeep Metalcraft shipments to Myanmar contain Swedish technology.

Members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad), Australia, Japan and the USA, must use their influence to stop the flow of arms from India to the Myanmar military.

Justice For Myanmar calls for urgent targeted sanctions against Sandeep Metalcraft, Creative Exploration and their owners.

Update (August 18, 2022): Response from Saab added.