Conflict Alerts # 566, 3 November 2022
On 3 November, Amnesty International (AI) released a report on the supply of aviation fuel to Myanmar that is aiding the war crimes committed by the Myanmar military through its air strikes. The report is authored in collaboration with Justice for Myanmar who traced the business and economic interests of the military. Amnesty International used its data on violations of human rights and international law in Myanmar and mapped the air strikes between 2021 and 2022through on-the-ground and remote research across the country.
First, the extent of the air strikes conducted by the Myanmar military. The Myanmar military led a coup under the leadership of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on 1 February 2022 and subsequently carried out crackdowns on protestors. One of the methods for the crackdown was conducting air strikes with the help of fighter jets and attack helicopters. The AI report highlights that between March 2021 and August 2022, the military carried out 16 unlawful airstrikes in Kayah, Kayin, and Chin states as well as in the Sagaing region. At least 15 civilians were killed, and 36 others were injured. These attacks were on civilian infrastructures like houses, religious buildings, medical facilities, schools, and camps for displaced persons. The report outlines that the military used unguided bombs and inaccurate rockets indiscriminately causing widespread civilian causalities which are classified as war crimes under international humanitarian law.
Second, major suppliers of aviation fuel. Puma Energy and Asia Sun Group are the two major companies that dominate Myanmar’s aviation fuel supply. Puma Energy is a Swiss global energy company based in Singapore, and Asia Sun Group is a Myanmar-based mid-sized business conglomerate. Puma Energy has two Myanmar-based companies, Puma Energy Asia Sun (PEAS) and the joint venture National Energy Puma Aviation Services (NEPAS). The joint venture partners are Myanmar Petrochemical Enterprises (MPE) and the Asia Sun Group. Puma Energy Asia Sun is responsible for the management and storage of aviation fuel in the Thilwa port terminal in Yangon and NEPAS aids to procure oil and distribute the fuel stored in the ports. Asia Sun Group and its subsidiaries act as the “consignee” of the fuel shipments coming to Myanmar and it allegedly acts as a proxy for the military to import fuel and is responsible for the supply of fuel to the military air bases. Other players in the supply chain are Chevron, ExxonMobil, Rosneft, PetroChina, and Thai Oil. Maritime insurers, vessel owners, shipping agents, and truck distributors are also part of the supply chain.
Third, the supply to storage facilities with direct links to war crimes. The aviation fuel arrives at the Thilwa port terminal in Yangon managed by PEAS. The fuel, supplied by PetroChina's Rosneft, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Thai Oil, is distributed to various airports in Myanmar, mainly by Cargo Link Petroleum Logistics owned by Asia Sun Group. The report outlines two different types of fuel distribution, one directly to the military bases and the other to the NEPAS storage facilities in airports. Data shows that from December 2021 to early August 2022 a total of 54,861,888 litres of Jet A-1 was distributed to Myanmar out of which 37,837,844 litres of Jet A-1 was delivered to NEPAS storage facilities, and 17,024,044 litres was delivered to the air bases. Amnesty International found that there were a few airports with NEPAS storage facilities which have a direct link to war crimes. For instance, the Nay Pyi Taw airport shares an airstrip with a nearby military base and satellite images have shown that both the civilian and military aircraft use the same fuel storage tank for refuelling.
Fourth, the military’s influence on secure fuel supply. Before the release of the report, Puma Energy announced that it was leaving Myanmar after it admitted that the military was using fuel distributed by them. This admission included that the company was supplying fuel to the military before February 2021 and after the coup, they exercised their influence to terminate the supply. The other logistics and fuel companies involved in this fuel supply chain have expressed that they were not aware of this and were under the assumption that the fuel supplied by them was only being used for civilian purposes and said that they had done due diligence to make sure they were not used by the military. This shows that despite reassurances from local suppliers and distributors, the fuel reached the military bases and was used to fuel jets that conducted the air strikes. It highlights the control and influence of the military on local businesses and their power in siphoning off from the civilian supply. All these companies are connected to NEPAS, PEAS, and Asia Sun Group and have declared that they will be ceasing all their operations in Myanmar. The Amnesty International report urges the companies, states, and other international organisations to take steps and impose sanctions so that all supplies of aviation fuel do not reach Myanmar to cripple the ability of the military to conduct air strikes.