"Chemical Concerns: Raising Suspicion About Myanmar's Covert CW Capability"

December 20, 2019

In late November 2019, the US representative Thomas DiNanno raised Myanmar's non-compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in a statement to the 24th CSP (Conference of State Parties) at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague (Netherlands). DiNanno, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Defence Policy, Emerging Threats, and Outreach in the Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Bureau at present, said that the South East Asian nation has failed to declare its past chemical weapons programme and failed to destroy its chemicals weapons production facility.

There is no clear evidence to suggest that Myanmar has a chemical weapons (CW) programme at present, although there were allegations in the past about it. Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) signed the CWC in 1993, an international treaty that outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. The Myanmar government ratified the treaty after almost two decades in July 2015 to become 191th member of the CWC. At that time, Myanmar's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in his address to the Executive Council of the OPCW had said in clear terms that his country is committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Convention and would cooperate with other State Parties to bring about a world completely free of chemical weapons.1 Hehadblameddomestic circumstances and capacity constraints for the 20-year delay in ratifying the treaty.

However, the basis of the recent US position on Myanmar stems from the controversial chemical weapons capability and its past weapons programme. Evidently, Myanmar had a sulphur mustard development programme among other suspicious CW agents in the 1980s and that the US thinks the country may still have a chemical weapons stockpile at its old chemical weapons facility. According to the US Myanmar may have CW agent and past production equipment intact at its past CWPF (Chemical weapon production facility) in Tonbo, located South-East of the national capital, Naypyidaw (Nay Pyi Taw). Besides the historical CW program at Tonbo, the US also suspects that there may be a couple of CW sites, Myanmar has never disclosed.

For Full Text, Read, CBW Magazine (IDSA, New Delhi),  July - December (Winter) 2019.


Animesh Roul, CBW Magazine (IDSA), December 19, 2019.