China, India firms dropped by Norway fund over Myanmar weapons

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Norway’s sovereign wealth fund – the world’s largest – has divested from the two firms over sales of weaponry to Myanmar.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, has excluded two companies from China and India for selling light combat aircraft and a weapons system to military-ruled Myanmar.

Norges Bank Investment Management said it had divested from AviChina Industry & Technology and Bharat Electronics due to the “unacceptable risk” that the companies posed by selling weapons to a state that uses them “in ways that constitute serious and systematic violations of international humanitarian law”.

The fund, valued at 13.2 trillion kroner ($1.3 trillion) on Wednesday, owned 0.37 percent of the Chinese group and 0.32 percent of the Indian company at the end of 2021, according to the most recent figures available. The decision to exclude the two companies was taken by an ethics board, the fund said in a statement released on Tuesday.

AviChina delivered light aeroplanes in December 2021 to Myanmar and Bharat Electronics delivered a remote-controlled weapons station to Myanmar in July 2021, the fund said.

“Both before and after the coup in 2021, the armed forces have perpetrated extremely serious abuses against the civilian population, with, among other things, combat aircrafts, according to several international institutions,” the fund said of the reason for divesting from AviChina.

“The Council has attached importance to the fact that the company delivered aircrafts to Myanmar despite the military coup and the information concerning the military’s abuses. The company has not responded to the Council’s queries,” the fund added.

According to the fund, Bharat Electronics’ system was “developed to remotely control weapons from inside an armoured vehicle”.

“It is reported that such vehicles are used in attacks on civilians in Myanmar,” the fund said. “The attacks have been numerous and, in the Council’s view, constitute serious and systematic violations of international law.”

The fund, in which the Norwegian state’s oil revenues are placed, is one of the biggest investors in the world with stakes in more than 9,000 companies. It also has holdings in bonds and real estate. Governed by rules that prohibit it from investing in companies involved in serious human rights violations, the fund has previously divested from a number of companies, including Airbus, Boeing, Glencore, Lockheed Martin and the US tobacco giant Philip Morris.

Three former United Nations experts said last week that companies from 13 countries – including France, Germany, China, India, Russia, Singapore and the United States – have been providing supplies that are “critical” to the production of weapons in Myanmar.

The Special Advisory Council on Myanmar (SAC-M) said in a report that after seizing power in a coup in February 2021, Myanmar’s military has become largely self-sufficient in manufacturing a range of weapons.

The advisory council called on states to investigate and initiate administrative or legal proceedings against companies whose products were identified as enabling the regime to produce weapons used to attack civilians.

 

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