SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea has ordered companies to suspend tear gas exports to Bahrain amid pressure from human rights groups, officials said Wednesday.
The state-run Defense Acquisition Program Administration instructed two companies not to ship tear gas to the Gulf state after they inquired about possible exports, agency officials said.
The two companies exported tear gas to Bahrain in 2011 and 2012, the officials said. Exports of tear gas need government approval because a key ingredient is listed as a strategic material in South Korea, they said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules, said the decision was made in consideration of the overall situation in Bahrain, including media reports that misuse of tear gas had caused the deaths and injuries of protesters, and calls by rights groups for a ban on exports of the crowd control material to the country.
International rights group Amnesty International hailed the South Korean decision. "The South Korean authorities should be commended for this move to help prevent further human rights violations in Bahrain," Brian Wood, head of arms control and human rights at the group, said in a statement.
Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled nation, has faced continuing unrest since the country's Shiite majority began protests against the government in early 2011. Bahraini Shiites are demanding more rights from the Sunni rulers.