Burma and weapons of mass destruction

Burma and weapons of mass destruction

Burma (Myanmar) is reported by various anti-government sources to have developed weapons of mass destruction, with varied reports of the country's military in possession of chemical weapons and also working on a nuclear weapons program.

However, there is lack of credible evidence and almost all information cannot be independently verified.[1] Academics also accuse activists of inflating numbers and defectors fabricating information for personal and political gains.[2] However, there is widespread belief and report of Burma's nuclear weapons programme, sparked by a report by the Sydney Morning Herald[3] and other articles based on it.

Chemical weapons

The first public indications of Burma's possible possession of chemical weapons came in testimony delivered to the United States Congress in 1991 by Rear Adm. Thomas Brooks, Director of Naval Intelligence of the United States Navy,[4] in which Burma was included on a list of nations that "probably possess" chemical weapons.

In 2005 Belgian photojournalist Thierry Falise reported speaking to two deserters from the Burmese Army who, during their time in service, were "reportedly told to take special precautions because they were handling chemical shells."[5] The deserters described seeing artillerymen wearing masks and gloves to fire the munitions. In a separate report from the same year, a physician with Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported treating injuries of anti-government Karenni rebels that were "consistent with a chemical attack."[6] In response to the Christian Solidarity Worldwide report, the Burmese government denied the use of chemical weapons. [7]

Burma signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 but has yet to ratify the agreement.

Nuclear weapons

In 2007 Russia and Burma did a controversial nuclear research center deal. According to them, "The centre will comprise a 10MW light-water reactor working on 20%-enriched uranium-235, an activation analysis laboratory, a medical isotope production laboratory, silicon doping system, nuclear waste treatment and burial facilities".[8]

According to an August 2009 report published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Burma is working to develop a nuclear weapon by 2014. The reported effort, purportedly being undertaken with assistance from North Korea, involves the construction of a nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facilities in caves tunneled into a mountain at Naung Laing, a village in the Mandalay division .[9] The information cited in the newspaper story reportedly originated from two high-ranking defectors who had settled in Australia.

On June 3 2010, a five year investigation by an anti-government Myanmar broadcaster, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), found evidence that allegedly shows the country's military regime begun a programme to develop nuclear weapons.[10] The DVB said evidence of Myanmar's nuclear programme came from top-secret documents smuggled out of the country over several years, including hundreds of files and other evidence provided by Sai Thein Win, a former major in the military of Myanmar.[11][12] A UN report said there was evidence that North Korea had been exporting nuclear technology to Burma, Iran and Syria.[13]

In 2009, pictures of a network of tunnels, allegedly built with the assistance of North Korea, were smuggled out of the country.[14]


  1. ^ Media spin takes on nuclear proportions [1], Democratic Voice of Burma, June 10, 2007, Accessed November 17, 2009.
  2. ^ Burma and North Korea - Smoke or Fire? [2], Australia Strategic Policy Institute, August 24, 2009, Accessed November 17, 2009.
  3. ^ Burma 's Nuclear Bombshell [3], Sydney Morning Herald, August 24, 2009, Accessed November 17, 2009.
  4. ^ Chemical Arms; Navy Report Asserts Many Nations Seek Or Have Poison Gas[4], New York Times, March 10, 1991, Accessed August 9, 2009.
  5. ^ Burmese junta uses chemical weapons [5], The Sunday Times, May 8, 2005, Accessed August 9, 2009.
  6. ^ Burma 'using chemical weapons'[6], The Guardian, April 21, 2005, Accessed August 9, 2009.
  7. ^ http://www.voanews.com/burmese/archive/2005-04/2005-04-22-voa5.cfm?moddate=2005-04-22
  8. ^ Russia and Burma in nuclear deal. BBC 15 May 2007
  9. ^ Revealed: Burma’s nuclear bombshell[7], Sydney Morning Herald, August 1, 2009, Accessed August 10, 2009.
  10. ^ "Expert says Burma ‘planning nuclear bomb’". Democratic Voice of Burma. 3 June 2010. http://www.dvb.no/news/expert-says-burma-%E2%80%98planning-nuclear-bomb%E2%80%99/9527. 
  11. ^ "Myanmar 'nuclear plans' exposed". Al Jazeera. 4 June 2010. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2010/06/2010642542469132.html. 
  12. ^ Myanmar Nuclear Weapon Program Claims Supported by Photos, Jane's Reports, Bloomberg, 22 July 2010
  13. ^ "Burma 'trying to build nuclear weapon'". BBC News. 4 June 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia_pacific/10236381.stm. 
  14. ^ "Burma's 'secret tunnels' leaked". BBC News. 25 June 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8119424.stm. 

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