UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Myanmar Special Weapons

Ever since independence was gained in 1948, Myanmar has claimed that it has only acquired weapons for internal security and defense against external enemies. In public statements Myanmar has consistently opposed the use of weapons of mass destruction and denied that it has ever been engaged in their manufacture, storage or use. Nevertheless, there is strong evidence of clandestine CW production in the early 1980s and it is possible that CW may have even been used, but this has never been independently confirmed. The evidence for clandestine BW production and use by the Tatmadaw is much weaker.

For its part, both as a matter of national policy and as a guide to national policy, the United States undertakes its own independent review based upon the best available information, including intelligence information of the compliance of CWC States Parties with their obligations under the Convention. Information and assessments in the 2013 Condition (10)(C) Report were current as of December 31, 2012. These reports have made no mention of Myanmar.

Ballistic Missiles

The Myanmar armed forces have never had ballistic missiles in their inventory. Reports that the regime has expressed an interest in acquiring short range ballistic missiles from China have yet to be substantiated.

In 2004 North Korean workers were reportedly assembling "SAM missiles" and constructing an underground facility at a Burmese military site in Magway Division, about 315 miles NNW of Rangoon, reportedly in the vicinity of 20,00 N, 94,25 E. . Some 300 North Koreans were said to be working at a secret construction site west of Mimbu, Magway Division, in the foothills of the Arakan Yoma mountains. (Comment: the number of North Koreans supposedly working at this site strikes us as improbably high.) The second-hand account of North Korean involvement with missile assembly and military construction in Magway Division generally tracks with other information US Embassy Rangoon and others had reported in various channels.

Biological Weapons

Upon independence in 1948, Myanmar became a party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. It has also signed the 1972 Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxic Weapons Convention. Despite numerous claims made since 1993 by ethnic minorities and insurgent groups to the effect that the Tatmadaw has used Biological Weapons (BW) against them, BW use by Myanmar has never been confirmed.

Chemical Weapons

In addition to being a party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol, Myanmar signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993. Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said in December 2013 that Myanmar was preparing to join the convention banning chemical weapons. Despite this, there have been repeated claims of Chemical Weapons (CW) use by the Tatmadaw dating back to the early 1980s, when a clandestine chemical weapons plant was apparently built by the Ne Win regime. These reports, however, have yet to be confirmed.

Myanmar (Burma) is thought to have produced chemical weapons. Its program, under development in 1983, may or may not be active today. U.S. intelligence officials told Congress in 1988 and 1991 that Burma was developing or had developed chemical weapons. According to the 1992 Defense Intelligence Agency survey produced for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Burma has "chemical weapons and artillery for delivering chemical agents." On the other hand, the 1993 edition of the DIA report indicates that Burma is no longer developing chemical weapons. The current status of the chemical weapons program in Myanmar is unknown, though it is believed the country still holds a stockpile.

In 2005, British-based rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide said it interviewed five ethnic Karen rebels who suffered symptoms consistent with a chemical weapons attack, as well as two government soldiers who defected after the alleged attack took place. The soldiers told the rights group the use of chemical weapons was widespread, and one said he was ordered to carry boxes of chemical weapons to the front line. Myanmar's former junta, which handed power to a quasi-civilian government in 2011, has repeatedly denied accusations that it used chemical weapons against ethnic insurgent groups.

On 14 February 2014 Myanmar police charged five journalists with "disclosing state secrets" after their newspaper carried a story about an alleged chemical weapons factory. The trial of four reporters and the head of Unity Journal began on Feb. 14 in Pakokku, a town in the country's central region where the military facility is located. Charges under the Official Secrets Act also included "trespassing on the restricted area of the factory". Government spokesman Ye Htut told local media that the factory did not produce chemical weapons. He could not be reached for comment later. The Unity Journal story claimed the secret facility built in 2009 consisted of tunnels burrowed under 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) of land and quoted workers as saying the factory produced chemical weapons, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which noted reports that authorities confiscated copies of the publication.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 15-07-2014 20:18:19 ZULU