Israel’s CAA Industries Ltd suspected to have aided and abetted the Myanmar military’s international crimes
June 8, 2023
CAA Industries Ltd – an Israel-registered arms manufacturer – has sold equipment used to upgrade the Myanmar military’s small arms capability following its campaign of genocide against the Rohingya, according to leaked evidence, industry sources and open-source research.
Shipment records dated 31 July 2019 and industry sources show that CAA Industries dispatched injection moulds and tooling used for upgrading small arms in a deal worth almost US$5m.
CAA Industries shipped this order to Star Sapphire Trading, a company ultimately controlled by Dr Tun Min Latt, a Myanmar arms broker who has been indicted on money laundering, transnational organized crime and drug trafficking charges in Thailand.
The Myanmar military relies on arms produced in its factories to wage an ongoing campaign of terror against the people, committing mass killings, torture, looting, the razing of villages and forced displacement.
Our evidence of CAA Industries’ 2019 shipment forms the basis of an application to open a criminal investigation against CAA Industries Ltd, and also against officials in Israel’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs over strong suspicions of them aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Myanmar.
An additional application demands that the Ministry of Defense cancel CAA’s export and marketing licenses to Myanmar.
Founded in 2004, CAA Industries Ltd describes itself as a “designer, developer and producer of modern tactical accessories, optics, tools and upgrades”.
According to its website, CAA products enable weapons to “improve accuracy, grip, aim, and enhance balance and performance”.
CAA has an operation in the USA, where it also manufacturers arms through its linked business, Kalashnikov USA.
CAA relies heavily on polymer for the forends, handgrips and other accessories for their weapons, and this is done with injection moulding techniques.
Star Sapphire Trading
Evidence we have gathered shows that the injection moulds sold and shipped by CAA Industries Ltd to Star Sapphire Trading are almost certainly being used to manufacture components and accessories for the Myanmar army’s MA-series of small arms.
Star Sapphire Trading Co, Ltd – a subsidiary of Star Sapphire Group – has played a key role in brokering deals of arms and military equipment for the Myanmar military over many years. Its business has included contracts seeking to upgrade the small arms design and manufacturing by the military in Myanmar.
Last year, Star Sapphire Trading extended its registration to supply the Myanmar military’s Directorate of Procurement with military equipment in categories including aircraft, naval and other machinery, according to a leaked record.
Star Sapphire Group operates multiples businesses that generate revenue for the Myanmar military. These include a casino on land leased from the Myanmar army’s office of the quartermaster general, a hotel on land leased from the military’s Ministry of Home Affairs, and mining interests with the military junta.
Star Sapphire Group of Companies and Tun Min Latt are currently sanctioned by the US and UK. The US has also sanctioned Star Sapphire’s Singapore subsidiary, Star Sapphire Group Pte Ltd, along with Tun Min Latt’s wife, Win Min Soe.
Evidence of CAA products used by the Myanmar military
The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar recently revealed details of the Myanmar military’s vast network of weapon production factories across Myanmar, which has significant production capacity used to in the military’s ongoing atrocities against the Myanmar people.
Experts on small arms design and manufacture by the Myanmar military have noted that the past decade has seen a notable rise in the use of polymer in Myanmar’s domestically manufactured small arms.
New polymer innovations in made-in-Myanmar small arms suggests expertise is being funnelled into Myanmar via foreign parties.
The end-user of the injection moulds and tooling for CNC machinery is the Myanmar military’s Office of the Chief of Defence Industries (OCDI) for the arms manufacturing factories that it controls, according to industry sources and an analysis of images of Myanmar-made rifles and light machine guns and images of CAA’s UPG47 interchangeable pistol grip.
The image comparison shows the same moulded grip design, including matching grip patterning and identically-positioned lozenges where logos – CAA and the Myanmar military’s triangle crest – have been added. This suggests that CAA-designed polymer injection moulds are being used for both.
There are some minor differences between the two. Myanmar’s backstraps are slightly more rounded but are interchangeable. This is likely due to an OCDI request to CAA Industries for slightly altered designs for the handguards, as seen on the recent production of rifles and light machine guns (mark II generation) showcased at the 2019 Defence & Security exposition in Bangkok, Thailand in November 2019 where the OCDI participated for the first time, about four months after CAA Industries’ shipment.
Israel and Myanmar
Israel and companies in Israel’s arms manufacturing sector have long-standing ties with the Myanmar military and have played a key role in the establishment of weapon manufacturing factories and small arms production lines in Myanmar.
In September 2015, Min Aung Hlaing – now head of the illegal military junta – visited Israel in his then capacity of leader of the Myanmar military. Discussions focused on new industrial arms contracts. Min Aung Hlaing’s trip saw visits to Israeli arms companies. The trip reportedly concluded with a memorandum of understanding between Myanmar and Israel on military cooperation and transfers of technology for the arms manufacturing sector.
Star Sapphire was the sole Myanmar representative of major Israeli arms companies Israel Aerospace Industries, Elbit Systems and Israel Shipyards, which led to a 2022 application for a criminal investigation against those companies and officials from Israel’s Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs for possible bribery and corruption.
Following the Myanmar military’s genocide against the Rohingya and a secret order of the Israeli Supreme Court in September 2017, Israel stopped the sale of arms to Myanmar.
Despite this, documents JFM has unearthed show at least one shipment of products for the arms manufacturing sector in Myanmar was made by CAA Industries Ltd as late as July 2019. Then in 2020, when the Myanmar military was preparing for its illegal coup attempt, the Israeli company Cognyte won a tender to sell spyware to Myanmar, which was revealed in an earlier JFM investigation.
CAA’s shipment casts into doubt the Israeli government’s ability and willingness to control the export of goods and products for military end-use to Myanmar and seemingly highlights the Israeli government’s quiet support for Myanmar’s military in more sophisticated ways.
Israel must act on arms sales to Myanmar
CAA Industries has a responsibility to respect international human rights and humanitarian law. Under international human rights standards on business and human rights, CAA Industries has a responsibility to conduct due diligence and prevent or mitigate and remedy any negative human rights impacts linked to the end-use of their products and services.
By selling and transferring injection moulds and tooling for CNC machinery to Star Sapphire Trading, CAA Industries is enabling the Myanmar military’s manufacturing of small arms, making it complicit in the Myanmar military’s war crimes and crimes against humanity that it commits with total impunity.
Justice For Myanmar calls for CAA Industries to immediately halt any collaboration, including shipments of accessories for specialised machinery and injection moulds, to Myanmar.
Justice For Myanmar also calls on the Government of Israel to respect and uphold its previous statement that it will halt all military exports to Myanmar, and to cancel CAA’s export and marketing licences to Myanmar.
Justice For Myanmar calls on Israel’s Attorney General to investigate and to take swift action against CAA Industries and officials from the ministries of defence and foreign affairs for their role in the 2019 shipment of equipment to Myanmar.