India supporting Myanmar junta atrocities through supply of gun barrels

March 1, 2023

Indian export records seen by Justice For Myanmar confirm that the Indian state-owned arms company Yantra India Ltd shipped multiple 122mm barrels to the Myanmar military on October 27, 2022, almost two years after its illegal attempted coup.

The 122mm barrels are most likely to be used for howitzers that are produced in Myanmar by the Office of the Chief of Defence Industries (OCDI), also known as the Directorate of Defence Industries, a unit of the military that is sanctioned by the US, UK, EU and Canada. Sources with first-hand experience of the country’s weapon manufacturing industry have noted that the OCDI is reliant on purchases of large caliber gun barrels from elsewhere due to a lack of appropriate technology and poor quality of domestically sourced raw materials.

Howitzers are artillery guns that are comparatively short-range and fire a heavy projectile at relatively low muzzle velocity. When operating with a caliber of 100mm or above, the howitzer is considered a heavy explosive weapon. When used in populated areas, howitzers can cause mass destruction, including large numbers of civilian casualties.

The Yantra India Limited shipment consisted of 20 pieces of 122mm barrels valued at US$330,000. According to tweets from Yantra and associated accounts, the barrels appear to have been ordered in May 2022 and were a first consignment, suggesting further shipments may follow. The barrels were manufactured at the company’s Ishapore metal and steel factory in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Since the military’s illegal coup attempt, the junta has murdered protesters, shelled villages and conducted indiscriminate airstrikes, killing more than 3,000 people and displacing over 1.2 million. The latest shipment comes as the military junta continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, including with howitzers.

The Myanmar army has recently been recorded firing 122mm howitzer rounds into civilian areas. For example, on 6 December 2022, the military fired rounds from a 122mm howitzer to the outskirts of Namsai Hkahku in Hpakant Township, Kachin State. On 13 December 2022, 122mm howitzer rounds were fired in Bhamo Township, Kachin State.

Yantra India Limited shipped the 122mm barrels to the Yangon-based company, Innovative Industrial Technologies Company Limited, owned by the Myanmar military arms broker, Kyaw Kyaw Htun. Justice For Myanmar previously exposed Kyaw Kyaw Htun for importing fuzes in 2019, 2020 and 2022 from the Indian company Sandeep Metalcraft to be used by the Myanmar military for the detonation of munitions. The fuzes were shipped to Creative Exploration Ltd (formerly My Space International), a company Kyaw Kyaw Htun owns with his wife, Zar Phyu Tin Soe. Creative Exploration also deals in surveillance technology. Justice For Myanmar continues to call for sanctions against Kyaw Kyaw Htun and his network.  

Yantra India Limited is an official public sector undertaking operating under the Department of Defence Production of the Indian Ministry of Defence. Its eight production units manufacture a wide range of components and materials used for weapons, including small, medium and high caliber shell body hardware for artillery, tank guns, mortars, rockets, pod assemblies, air bombs, cartridge cases and hardware for mechanical and electronic fuzes.

Yantra India Limited is currently on the exclusion list of several EU-based investors, including Nordea and Mercer Global Investments Europe for its involvement in the manufacture of cluster munitions, which are banned under international law.

India’s complicity with the Myanmar military’s atrocity crimes

India has steadily increased defence co-operation with the Myanmar military after its campaign of genocide against the Rohingya in 2017. In July 2019, India and Myanmar signed a Memorandum of Understanding to increase defence co-operation. According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India was the third largest supplier of weapons to Myanmar for the years 2017-2021, accounting for 17% of Myanmar’s arms imports after China (36%) and Russia (27%).  

Yantra’s exports of 122mm barrels to Myanmar follows several other known exports of weapons and weapon components from Indian companies after the Myanmar military’s attempted coup, including exports of fuzes and a remote controlled weapon station, uncovered in previous Justice For Myanmar investigations.  

A recent report of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar confirmed that another Indian company, Solar Industries India Limited, had shipped boosters, detonating caps, igniters and electronic detonators to Myanmar in a series of shipments transferred between 2019 and 2021.  

In December 2022, India, together with China and Russia, abstained in the vote at the UN Security Council on a draft resolution that demanded an immediate end to violence in Myanmar and urged the military junta to release political prisoners.

India faces expectations under international humanitarian law to not transfer weapons when it knows, or ought reasonably to know, that these weapons could be used in violation of the Geneva Conventions, or to aid and abet atrocity crimes.

With ongoing credible documentation and reporting at the United Nations of the human rights crisis in Myanmar, India must know that the 122mm barrels would be used in a context in which the military is committing repeated grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. By allowing the export of key components of weapons to Myanmar, India is directly supporting the junta’s indiscriminate attacks against civilians, and therefore aiding and abetting those crimes.

India is also a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, an export control regime that promotes transparency of national export control regimes on conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. Under this arrangement, India is expected to maintain export controls to projectors specially designed or modified for military use as well as accessories and specially designed components for howitzers and projectile launchers. India became the 42nd State to voluntarily sign up to the agreement after a period of aligning its domestic regulations to the requirements of the Wassenaar Arrangement, signalling to the international community that it would contribute to transparency and responsibility for the proliferation of arms.

Moreover, in Article 1(5) of the Wassenaar Arrangement, participating states commit to “prevent the acquisition of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies by terrorist groups and organisations”. The Myanmar military junta, which received the barrels, is a terrorist organisation under Myanmar law and as defined in international law.

The fact that Yantra India Ltd is a fully state-owned company, coupled with the fact that Indian arms manufacturing companies have continued to supply weapons after the attempted coup, show India’s serious disregard for norms of conduct contained in the Wassenaar Arrangement and in international humanitarian law.

Justice For Myanmar calls on India to immediately impose an arms embargo on the Myanmar military junta, and cease all training and other military support, which enables junta atrocities.

We also call on Yantra India Limited and its production units to immediately stop doing business with the Myanmar military – directly or through front companies in Myanmar such as Innovative Industrial Technologies – and halt any agreed consignments of additional military hardware to Myanmar. Not doing so further exposes the company, and the State that owns it, to liability under international law.

Yantra did not respond to questions from Justice For Myanmar.

Explore the evidence

Kyaw Kyaw Htun's business network (current as of July 2022): Download Excel File (13 kb)