Airbus in hot water over secret Myanmar air force deal

Airbus in hot water over secret Myanmar air force deal

Airbus Defence and Space is accused of contravening the European Union’s arms sanctions on Myanmar by providing Myanmar Air Force personnel with training and certification for flying and maintaining the C295 transport aircraft.

Specifically the deal involves training eight pilots and four mechanics of the Myanmar Air Force at its CASA training services facility in Seville, Spain.

Myanmar Air Force is purchasing two used CASA C295 transport aircraft from the Royal Jordanian Air Force for $38.6 million. The aircraft are being purchased through an intermediary company called Aero Sofi, which facilitates purchase of military hardware and spare parts to the Myanmar Armed Forces.

A Myanmar rights group called Justice For Myanmar stated in its report that the Myanmar Air Force was due to conclude the deal by 30 December 2020.

The group stated if the deal was concluded Airbus support and certified training would breach the EU arms embargo on Myanmar. It pressed Airbus and its partners to ensure the Myanmar Air Force is denied the use of Airbus technology.

A United Nations Fact Finding mission has urged all companies to completely sever business ties to the Myanmar military, saying that foreign and local firms have helped to fund military operations that amount to atrocity crimes against the Rohingya in Rakhine state, as well as against other minority groups.

It is all but certain that such military transport aircraft would be used by the Myanmar Army to deploy troops in operational areas to commit further atrocities on minority ethnic groups in Myanmar.

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A British company called Swire Group, which partially owns Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific airline is assisting the Myanmar military by converting a Myanmar airlines Airbus A319-112 into a private jet that includes luxurious fittings for Myanmar’s generals. The project will be certified by the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department.

These web of arms deals partially expose the illicit activities of many reputable companies from Western countries engaged in aiding and abetting war criminals and dictatorships.

Airbus may also risk future business with larger buyers if the information provided by the Justice for Myanmar group pans out.

United Nations, the international criminal courts and intelligence agencies of various countries are already pursuing various leads connecting the Myanmar military’s involvement in genocide and crimes against humanity in Rakhine state, which forced over a million minority Rohingya’s to seek shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh.

It may be mentioned that the Bangladesh Army operates the latest variant of the Airbus Defence C295, known as the C295W. Another aircraft is due shortly. Airbus also hopes to secure future deals with the Bangladesh Air Force for the C295W and A400M transport aircraft. Such secretive deals with the Myanmar Air Force may scuttle Airbus Defence’s hopes to secure lucrative deals with the Bangladesh military.

Recently Airbus signed a LoA with the Bangladesh Air Force’s aviation university to develop and implement aircraft design, safety and maintenance courses in Bangladesh.

The deal with Myanmar may leave Airbus and its related companies in a precarious situation.

The European company has not publicly commented on the report.

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