David Cameron wants to sell more arms to Indonesia, despite continuing human rights abuses

11 April 2012

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has condemned David Cameron's latest arms sales trip to Asia, especially his attempts to sell more weapons to Indonesia. Mr Cameron's schedule includes Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Burma. His entourage contains executives from six arms companies, including BAE Systems and AgustaWestland.

Mr Cameron said the purpose of his Indonesia visit was primarily trade, including arms. In an interview with Kompas, a leading Indonesia newspaper, he stated: "Britain makes some of the best defence equipment in the world and it is right that it is available to Indonesia, under the very same criteria that we apply to all of our partners around the world. That is why some of our leading defence companies are with me on this visit."

Kaye Stearman, spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade, said:

Mr Cameron's arms sales trip to Indonesia is a sick joke, given Indonesia's use of Hawk jets to bomb civilians in East Timor and its continuing human rights abuses in West Papua and elsewhere. Indonesia already buys considerable amounts of arms from the UK, spending valuable resources that would be better used to support its people's welfare, and we certainly should not be pushing them to buy more and build up further arms-related debt.


During the 1980s and 1990s when Indonesia was under the dictatorship of General Suharto, the UK sold Hawk fighter jets, manufactured by BAE Systems, to the Indonesian Airforce. The purchases were underwritten by the UK government's Export Credits Guarantee Department, which transferred the risks of non-payment from BAE Systems to the taxpayer.

The Indonesia government used the Hawk jets to bomb civilians in West Papua and East Timor. Financial and political crises led to the forced resignation of Suharto in 1998 but the military repression continued. The European Union (EU) banned the export of arms to Indonesia in September 1999 after verified reports of their use in East Timor; the EU embargo was lifted in January 2000 after four months, a move that was defended by the UK government.

Nevertheless, arms exports to Indonesia continued in the new century, although at a lower level, largely because of Indonesia's financial problems. In 2004, UK arms exports were running at around £1 million a year. However, they have since risen considerably. Between January 2008 and December 2011, the UK government licensed over £68 million worth of military exports of which £51.6 million were for "aircraft, helicopters and drones". A further £9.1 million were for "target acquisitions, weapons control systems" and £2.2 million for "small arms".


For further information please contact CAAT's Media Coordinator, Kaye Stearman, on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232 or email media(at)caat·org·uk.


  1. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems. Around 75% of CAAT's income is raised from individual supporters.
  2. The data for arms export licences for Indonesia can be found via CAAT's export licence app here.The full app can be accessed here.
  3. Jubilee Debt Campaign has researched the links between UK arms sales to Indonesia and and the Export Credit Guarantee Department.See: "New report details string of dodgy deals at export support body".
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