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Northern Ireland: Amnesty concerned companies may be helping to arm Burma (Burma)

With fears growing over how the Burma (Burmese) military government will react to the growing calls for democracy, Amnesty International has voiced fresh concern that Northern Ireland companies could be helping to arm the Burma government.

Last week’s groundbreaking Amnesty report into Northern Ireland’s arms industry, Northern Ireland: Arming the World, identified at least two Northern Ireland-based companies which may be indirectly helping to equip the Burma military with attack aircraft, effectively undermining an EU arms embargo on ther country.

Amnesty International repeated its call for a tightening of UK arms export controls to prevent the export of military equipment via third countries to destinations such as Burma, where such equipment might be used to facilitate human rights abuses or other breaches of international law.

Amnesty's report highlighted how military, police and dual-use equipment made in Northern Ireland could be ending up in the hands of human rights abusers across the globe, including China, Zimbabwe and Burma.

Two companies in particular – Goodrich Engine Control Systems based in Belfast, and Martin-Baker Aircraft Company based in County Antrim - were found to be producing components of the kind used in attack aircraft sold to Burma.

The firms are involved, respectively, in the manufacture of engine control systems and ejector seats which are reportedly used in Chinese K-8 attack jets. China is reported to have sold these aircraft to Burma.

Amnesty's report quotes Jane's All the World's Aircraft, which has reported that the Chinese K-8 Karakorum light attack jet has a Honeywell engine fitted with a Goodrich/Lucas FADEC engine control system. This aircraft is reported to have been exported to a number of countries including Burma. Goodrich/Lucas have neither confirmed nor denied the Jane's report.

Martin-Baker develops and tests ejection seat systems, reportedly including that used in the Chinese K-8 jet, which has been sold to Burma and other countries with poor human rights records

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director, said:

“We are all concerned for the fate of those protesting for democracy in Burma. But what should concern us doubly is that Northern Ireland-based firms may be contributing - perhaps unwittingly and totally legally - to the miserable human rights situation in the country by providing weapons components to the military.

“At present, our Arms controls are so inadequate that it is simply impossible to tell if the Burmese military’s weapons contain components developed and manufactured in Northern Ireland.

“This must surely give renewed strength to calls for the Arms to be properly accountable and regulated. We call for the Westminster government and the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister take these concerns - and their responsibilities - seriously.”

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