Experts Detail Suspicions About Mysterious Defense Site in Myanmar

None

Myanmar's army chief, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, inspects troops during a military ceremony in the capital city of Naypyidaw in March. Nonproliferation experts on Friday said there is reason to be suspicious about a mysterious defense site in the country, which locals have alleged is involved in chemical-arms work.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
May 12, 2014, 10:29 a.m.

Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ex­perts on Fri­day said they had found reas­on to be sus­pi­cious about the pur­pose of a mys­ter­i­ous de­fense site in My­an­mar.

Earli­er this year, the small Burmese journ­al Unity ran an in­vest­ig­at­ive re­port al­leging that a de­fense fa­cil­ity in the cent­ral Mag­we re­gion was man­u­fac­tur­ing chem­ic­al war­fare ma­ter­i­als. Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials swiftly denied the re­port, ar­res­ted the journ­al­ists re­spons­ible for the art­icle and ac­ted to con­fis­cate print cop­ies of the journ­al. However, as My­an­mar has yet to join the Chem­ic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion, there is no form­al mech­an­ism for veri­fy­ing that the gov­ern­ment is telling the truth.

Ana­lysts with the James Mar­tin Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies in their Fri­day re­port said they be­lieve the fa­cil­ity mer­its closer ex­am­in­a­tion due to a num­ber of design fea­tures that are “con­sist­ent” with a chem­ic­al pro­duc­tion plant.

“It is not pos­sible to de­term­ine wheth­er the fa­cil­ity is a chem­ic­al weapons site, but there are a num­ber of as­pects to its size, lay­out and loc­a­tion that raise ques­tions,” wrote CNS re­search as­so­ci­ate Cath­er­ine Dill and Jef­frey Lewis, who dir­ects the think tank’s East Asia Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Pro­gram.

Dill and Lewis said they were able to identi­fy the loc­a­tion of the fa­cil­ity by com­par­ing pho­tos prin­ted in the Unity journ­al art­icle with com­mer­cial satel­lite pho­to­graphs taken in 2004, 2009, 2012 and Janu­ary 2014. The fa­cil­ity is loc­ated near the Pauk town­ship and con­sists of five siz­able ware­houses, ac­cord­ing to the CNS re­port.

Point­ing to such de­tec­ted fea­tures as heli­copter pads, a for­ti­fied en­trance, a se­cur­ity peri­met­er and pos­sible nearby for­eign work­er hous­ing, the ex­perts con­cluded the site is “clearly a high-value de­fense fa­cil­ity.”

The com­plex’s loc­a­tion in isol­ated hill coun­try would be in­con­sist­ent with the premise of a com­mer­cial busi­ness ven­ture, Dill and Lewis said. “The hills might, however, provide some pro­tec­tion for nearby com­munit­ies in the event of a chem­ic­al re­lease.”

They also noted the pres­ence of vent­il­a­tion fea­tures such as three ex­haust stacks and roof vents on some of the con­nec­ted build­ings in the north­ern part of the site.

The ex­perts re­com­mend that the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity press My­an­mar to quickly rat­i­fy the Chem­ic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion and cla­ri­fy “the pur­pose of de­fense activ­it­ies” at the com­plex. In re­cent days, an of­fi­cial with Pres­id­ent Thein Sein’s ad­min­is­tra­tion said the gov­ern­ment was plan­ning to rat­i­fy the chem­ic­al weapons ban with­in its cur­rent term.

In past dec­ades, dis­sid­ent Burmese groups have ac­cused the mil­it­ary junta that of­fi­cially ruled My­an­mar un­til a few years ago of con­duct­ing chem­ic­al weapons work. However, no evid­ence has been found to back up those claims.

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
1 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×