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Myanmar military diverts civilian jet fuel to air force: Amnesty International

Amnesty International has called on aviation fuel suppliers to suspend shipments to Myanmar to prevent the military government from using such supplies to carry out airstrikes against civilian targets.

Countries and fuel companies must stop supplying aviation fuel to Myanmar as shipments sent for civilian aircraft are being diverted to the military, whose air force has been linked to war crimes, Amnesty International said in a new report. published on Thursday.

“There can be no justification for engaging in the supply of aviation fuel to a military that has a blatant disregard for human rights and has been repeatedly accused of committing war crimes,” Amnesty Secretary General Agnès Callamard said.

“These airstrikes have devastated families, terrorized civilians, killed and maimed victims. But if planes can’t refuel, they can’t fly and wreak havoc,” Callamard said.

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“We call on maritime suppliers, consignees, shipowners and insurers to withdraw from a supply chain that benefits the Myanmar Air Force,” he said.

Since the military seized power in Myanmar in February 2021, military forces have killed more than 2,300 civilians, including those targeted by airstrikes.

During its investigation, Amnesty said it had documented 16 airstrikes that took place between March 2021 and August 2022 in Kayah, Kayin and Chin states, as well as in the Sagaing region.

The airstrikes killed at least 15 civilians, injured at least 36 others, and destroyed houses, religious buildings, schools, health centers and a camp for displaced people.

In two of the airstrikes, the Myanmar military used cluster munitions, which are banned internationally due to the indiscriminate nature of such weapons.

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Amnesty also said it had linked four military airbases – Hmawbi, Magway, Tada-U and Taungoo – to attacks amounting to war crimes.

“In the vast majority of these documented cases, only civilians appear to have been present at the scene of the attack at the time of the attack,” Amnesty said.

Diversion of civilian fuel supplies

In the report, the human rights group tracked eight shipments of aviation fuel that arrived at the Thilawa port terminal, located outside the country’s commercial capital Yangon, between February 2021 and September this year.

Some of the shipments were delivered to airports that shared refueling facilities with nearby military bases, Amnesty said, citing satellite data and leaked documents.

At least two of the eight fuel shipments, from the PetroChina-owned Singapore Petroleum Company and Thai Oil, were delivered directly to the military, Amnesty said, citing customs data and letters detailing the shipments.

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A Myanmar subsidiary of oil giant Puma Energy also paid a local company to transport fuel to a military-controlled jet fuel storage facility, Amnesty said.

Using flight tracking data and interviews with former military personnel, Amnesty said it had documented airstrikes launched from two airbases normally supplied by that storage facility during the investigation period.

Some of the air strikes by aircraft originating from the two bases amounted to war crimes, Amnesty said.

In July, Myanmar Witness, a London-based group that collects evidence of human rights abuses, said it had verified the deployment of Russian-made Yak-130 aircraft with ground-attack capability against civilians in Myanmar. Russian-made aircraft had used unguided rockets and 23mm cannons against targets in built-up areas.

Airstrikes by the Myanmar army last month in the country’s northern Kachin state killed more than 60 people, and possibly as many as 80, most of whom were civilians attending a celebration and musical concert. organized by a major rebel ethnic group.

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Singapore Petroleum Company, Rosneft, Chevron and Thai Oil, which provided fuel during Amnesty International’s investigation period, told the human rights group that they believed they had “provided aviation fuel for civilian purposes only,” according to the report.

Following the investigation, carried out with the activist group Justice For Myanmar, Amnesty said that Thai Oil and a shipping agent and a subsidiary of the Norwegian shipping group Wilhelmsen had announced that they would stop all business related to aviation fuel in Myanmar.

Amnesty also said that Puma Energy had written to say that it had received reports that the military had been able to “violate the controls that were put in place to maintain the segregation of civilian supply”. The company cited this breach as the reason for its departure from Myanmar, at a date yet to be announced.

Amnesty called on all companies involved in Myanmar’s supply chain to “immediately suspend the direct and indirect supply, sale and transfer, including transit, transshipment and brokerage of aviation fuel.”

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