Burma caught using Swedish weapons in war against rebels

Inquiry launched into how anti-tank rifles were found on soldiers in breach of EU sanctions

The authorities in Stockholm have launched an investigation into how new Swedish-made
weapons made their way to Burma in breach of EU sanctions where they were used
by troops in military operations against ethnic rebels.

The Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls (ISP) confirmed that an investigation had been launched after it was handed details about several high-performance M-3 Carl Gustav anti-tank weapons that were recovered by Kachin rebels who had been battling Burmese troops in bloody and ongoing clashes.

“We have the serial numbers for these weapons and with this you can know the where, when and what – the detailed information,” said an ISP spokeswoman. “We hope we will be able to trace how they got there.”

While the EU and the US has suspended most sanctions against Burma in recognition of reforms that have been introduced by the nominally-civilian government of President Thein Sein, bans on the sale of weapons remain in place. In any sale to a foreign country, US or European arms manufacturers are obliged to enforce an end user agreement that stipulates the arms cannot be sold on to restricted nations such as Burma.

The M-3 weapon, also known as the recoilless rifle and capable of firing a variety of ammunition including armour-piercing grenades, is produced by Saab Bofors Dynamics, part of the Saab group and one of the world’s top 30 producers of arms. A spokesman, Sebastian Carlsson, said the company was cooperating with the ISP inquiry and was looking at the issue with “serious eyes”. “We don’t like our products ending up in Burma. We don’t sell to Burma,” he said.

Asked how the arms found their way to Burma in breach of both EU sanctions and Swedish law, he declined to speculate. He said the company sold the product to 20 nations but declined to identify them.

The Swedish investigation was launched after veteran journalist and author Bertil Lintner was shown several of the weapons during a recent reporting assignment to Kachin state and revealed his discovery in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

Kachin is located in Burma’s north-east and since June last year has been the location of fierce and widely-condemned battles between ethnic rebels and Burmese troops, who have been accused of repeatedly breaching ceasefire agreements and of human rights abuses. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced. The UN’s chief humanitarian official, Baroness Valerie Amos, recently tried to visit and urged the Burmese authorities to allow the UN to provide emergency aid to 40,000 people there deemed to be in desperate need.

Last night, a senior member of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said they had been able to recover the weapons after Burmese troops had sought to destroy an armaments cache. Speaking from Laiza, capital of the KIA-controlled area, the official who asked not to be identified said the armaments were of high quality. “We would like to know where it came from,” he said.

How the weapons made their way to Burma remains unclear. In his report, Mr Lintner said the new, lighter model of weapon he discovered had only been sold to two countries in Asia – Thailand and India. India is known to be one of several nations that have in the past supplied weapons to the Burmese junta, partly from a desire to equip Burmese troops to launch actions against militant groups that operate in India’s north-east but which have their bases inside Burma.

India’s Ministry of Defence said last it was looking into questions sent to it by The Independent. Thailand’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to queries. Likewise, there was no response from Burma.

Activists claimed the episode underscored how the EU did not have sufficient monitoring of its weapons’ embargo. Mark Farmaner of the Burma Campaign UK, said: “The EU must now introduce specific monitoring of the arms embargo. European weapons are being used in a conflict where the Burmese Army is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against civilians. It makes a mockery of the arms embargo.”

Hkun Htoi Layang, a London-based official with the Kachin National Council, said he was shocked by the revelation that European-produced weapons were being used in the operations against the Kachin. He urged British foreign office minister Hugo Swire to raise the issue of human rights when he visits Burma this week. “They are burning the villages and shooting civilians on sight,” Mr Layang said of the Burmese army’s actions in Kachin, which borders China.

The incident will be of particular embarrassment to the authorities in Sweden. Last week, organisers of the Right Livelihood Award, the so-called “alternative Nobel prize”, recognised the work of British-based  Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). In an acceptance speech, Anne-Marie O’Reilly condemned the “hypocrisy” of the UK government in “courting” authoritarian regimes to sell arms.

“Sweden must urgently find out which third party country sold these weapons onto Burma and ensure sales and licensing arrangements with that country are stopped,” CAAT said in a statement. “Then, as must the UK, it needs to reconsider its priorities. Why push exports which ultimately make the world less secure when similar skills and resources are needed for beneficial sectors such as renewable energy technology?”

The fight for Kachin: A conflict reignited

Violence in Burma's Kachin state reignited last year, ending a ceasefire agreement that had been in place for 17 years. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the military wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation, says Kachin people are routinely discriminated against inside Burma and wants autonomy, but within a federal arrangement.

The violence has forced tens of thousands of people into refugee camps, located in areas that international organisations are not always able to reach.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Burmese troops were involved in a range of abuses and had razed homes, pillaged properties and tortured and threatened civilians, sometimes in the hope of obtaining information about the KIA fighters. HRW called on both sides to observe the rules of war to protect civilians.

The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
newsTV star had been reported missing
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 5 Primary Teaching positionRands...

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone