Defence exports: strong-arms

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


BoJo’s post-Brexit “pivot” to Asia comes at a time when British weapons manufacturers are already making a killing from autocratic regimes in the southeast of the continent. According to research by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), in 2019 – the year BoJo took power – Britain approved £78m of export licences to the Philippines, a whopping 926% increase on the previous year. Since the Philippine state began its summary executions of crystal meth users and other undesirables in 2016, most licences have gone to Wiltshire-based concern Avon Protection. The military face masks they have specialised in since the 1920s might help the hitmen to deflect the stench of corpses (30,000 nationwide and counting). In 2019-20 we did even more business with Taiwan (£188m) and South Korea (£176m), two key links in the frontier developing between China and the US in what Prof Daniel Bessner calls a “a new Cold War that will be as expensive, deadly, and, ultimately, pointless as the last one.” Human rights groups have lately accused both these countries’ governments of corruption, censorship and restricting academic freedom. But by far our biggest customer in the region is Indonesia, who, in 2019-20, spent £298m on British arms and sent delegations to two “security and policing exhibitions” in Farnborough where BAE Systems, Airbus Group and others hawked equipment so nasty that the organisers deemed it “too sensitive to show in a more open environment.” So we should have no cause for concern if any of this gear has fallen into the hands of, say, the Indonesian soldiers who this April killed an unarmed 16-year-old for ‘spying’ for the Papuan separatist movement, or the Indonesian police officers who last year intimidated and vindictively arrested journalists, lecturers and students for questioning their government’s Covid strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Specialist publicationPrivate Eye
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2021


  • militarism
  • defence
  • arms sales
  • arms exports
  • Philippines
  • Asian studies
  • Politics


Dive into the research topics of 'Defence exports: strong-arms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • Determining Duterte

    Tom Sykes (Presented paper), Joseph Scalice (Presented paper), Walden Bello (Presented paper), Oscar Campomanes (Presented paper) & Roderick Galam (Chair)

    21 Apr 2021

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

Cite this