Indonesia and France’s Dirty Little Secret: The Arms Weapons Deals that Keep The Indonesian Forests Burning

By Sianny Rooney

Nicolas Hulot. Photo from GQ Magazine. © Alexandre Guirkinger

Nicolas Hulot, Former French Minister of Ecological Transition who is also a journalist and environmental activist stated on GQ Magazine’s interview published on 28 October 2019 that Indonesia and France have weapons and arms deals.



“I saw the government’s incoherence everyday. Do you know why I failed to prohibit the importation of palm oil ? Because we have arms weapons deals with Indonesia.”

Massive Deforestation for Palm Oil by Total E&P
Indonesian Forest’s Burning. Photo from Rencong Post

Based on NouvelObs, every year Total E&P imports 300.000 tons of palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia. This 300.000 tons represents an increase of 36% of French palm oil import from previous year.

Palm oil has many attractive qualities: easy to grow thus low-cost, very stable product that can resist heat and oxidation, easy to process in the industry. But it is not the perfect solution and it is bad for health because of its high saturated fat that can be harmful to one’s cardiovascular.

For Total E&P, Indonesia and Malaysia which represent 90% of total palm oil production worldwide have to do massive deforestation by burning the forests to get it ready for palm plantation. Burning forest is the cheapest way to get the land ready for palm plantation.

This deforestation massacres the extant orangutans and gibbons, destroys biodiversity and villages, causing pollution and aggravates global warming. Deforestation is responsible for 10% of the emission of greenhouse gas. Based on 2016 research requested by the European Commission, palm oil is three times more harmful than fossil energy in terms of its greenhouse gas.

Palm oil is used in food industry from chips to mayonnaise, in beauty products, and for fuel. In France, 75% imported palm oil ends in vehicles’ tanks.

When France wanted to reduce its import of palm oil or increase import tax for palm oil, in 2016 Indonesia threatened to stop buying Airbus’ A400M military transport planes. Malaysia which is also France’s client for its arms weapons sales also threatened to stop buying 18 Rafale based on L’usineNouvelle.

Video: Airbus A400M is having difficulty because the project cost initially valued at 20 Billion Euros has reached 30 Billion Euros. Video from published Feb 24, 2017.

Rafale, picture from L’usine Nouvelle. ©Pascal Guittet

The hypocrisy in all of this is that when Amazon forest was burning, France jumped to the rescue, when at the same time France is actively participating in the deforestation and burning forests in Indonesia, Malaysia and Guyana.

N’empêche : la France qui vole au secours de l’Amazonie alors qu’elle participe activement à la déforestation de la Guyane, de l’Indonésie ou de la Malaisie, c’est un peu schizo, non ? … (GQ Magazine – 28 October 2019)

Indonesia is the new Eldorado for the French Arms, Weapons & Defense Industry
Rebuilding national defence is one of the top 9 priorities of the new Indonesian President Jokowi’s agenda. Photo Credit :

Indonesia is an economic giant in South East Asia that is unknown to France. Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous nation, the world’s 10th largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity, and a member of the G-20. The last time Indonesia ever has a Presidential visit from France was when Francois Mitterrand was president.

France is number 3 biggest exporter of arms and weapons in the world based on the research by SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). The five biggest exporters—the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China—together accounted for 74 per cent of all arms exports in 2013–17. France increased its arms exports by 27 per cent between the two periods (2008-2012 and 2013-2017) and was the third largest arms exporter in 2013–17, based on 2018 SIPRI report.

Le Parisien wrote about the concerns of French people on their government selling arms and weapons to Saudi Arabia that creates humanitarian crisis such as in Yemen. France’s ally USA is the number 1 exporter of arms and weapons and has increased its exports by 25% from 2008-2017. In 2013-2017 US’ arms exports were 58% higher than those of Russia (second largest arms exporter in the world). Another important figure to add, Indonesia increased its arms imports by 193 per cent between 2008–12 and 2013–17.

In Indonesia, because of the ban on journalists especially foreign journalists in conflict areas and the lack of national media writing on these issues, we don’t really know how much of this arms and weapons are used in areas of conflict in Indonesia that creates humanitarian crisis such as West Papua. Thankfully, there are other alternative independent media who wrote about the use of arms and weapons and military training backed by the US and UK to maintain their colonisation in West Papua.

Indonesia has attracted many French companies in the Defense Industry such as Airbus, Dassault, Thales, Safran, DCNS, Nexter, Renault Defense Trucks and many other. With the decreasing defense budget in Europe, and the Asia’s increase in defense budget, these corporations are looking to expand their arms weapons sales in the developing world such as Indonesia who wishes to modernise its defense equipment. In 2014, Thales estimated that there is a 500 million euros worth of business opportunity with Indonesia in the next 5 years. The business opportunity with Indonesia is immense and promising that in summer 2014, French Ministry of Defense sent special delegates to Indonesia.

Rebuilding national defence is one of 9 priorities of Jokowi’s agenda when he was firstly elected as Indonesian President. Jokowi increased the defense budget from 7 Billions USD to 20 Billions USD, which is approximately 1.5% of Indonesian GDP from 2014-2019.

In 2011, Indonesia and France signed a strategic partnership with the objective for a stronger cooperation and relationship between two countries to promote the security and defense industry. In 2013, Indonesia became the 4th biggest French defence industry’s client with its total purchase of 480 million Euros.

Indonesia purchased more than 200 million euros worth of “Mistral 3” missiles from MBDA in 2013. Indonesia has also bought 37 “Caesar” trucks equipped with artillery system from Nexter worth 115 million euros. In 2014 Thales has sold air defense system “Force Shield” and “Star Streak” missiles to Indonesian Defense Ministry for more than 130 million euros. These are just some of the many arms and weapons business deals between France and Indonesia. Indonesia has also approached Dassault, showing its interest to buy 16 “Rafale” fighter jets and already committed a budget of 1.5 billion USD for this purchase.

France and Indonesia’s Responsibilities to the World Ecological Crisis and World Peace

Presiden of Indonesia Jokowi needs to stop the deforestation and burning forests in Indonesia for palm oil plantation and find other greener and economically viable alternatives for Indonesia and its people. France and Indonesia need to bring Total E&P to international court for the environmental destruction that causes health problems and economic social harms to Indonesian people living in the deforestation areas. Total E&P also needs to pay fines and compensate Indonesian people for its natural and economic social destructions.

Finally, the humankind is facing a dire crisis of the survival of the planet which poses a threat to humanity. The tremendous amount of profit from the weapons and arms industry threatens world peace and creates humanitarian crisis in the world such as war zones in the Middle East, Africa and conflict areas in other parts of the world. We as global citizens of the world have to start questioning the importance of money or profit above everything else, above humanity, and above our survival on this planet earth. Are we going to let money and greed rule us to the extent that it threatens our humanity, freedom, peace and our existence on this planet earth?

Please feel free to republish my essay writing free of charge as long as you cite your source which is the link to this website. For me, the importance is that the information is being spread out to others. Thank you – Sianny Rooney

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