Experts Detail Suspicions About Mysterious Defense Site in Myanmar

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 »
GERMAN MINISTER SAYS U.S. WON’T COMPROMISE
U.S.-EU Trade Deal a Dead Letter for Now
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

Sigmar Gabriel, the German economic minister, said there's no chance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being agreed upon before the U.S. elections this fall. Gabriel said the United States "had effectively ended talks" on the free trade deal with the European Union "because Washington had not wanted to compromise with its European counterparts."

Source:
DOWN FROM POST-CONVENTION NUMBERS
Monmouth Has Clinton Up Seven
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a new Monmouth University poll, 46% of likely voters support Clinton and 39% back Trump, with 7% supporting Libertarian Gary Johnson, and 2% backing Jill Stein of the Green Party. That's down from a poll taken right after the Democratic convention, in which Clinton led by 13 points.

Source:
DEBATE PREP
Clinton Advisers Talking to Psychologists, Trump Ghostwriter
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

“Hillary Clinton’s advisers are talking to Donald J. Trump’s ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal, seeking insights about Mr. Trump’s deepest insecurities as they devise strategies to needle and undermine him in four weeks at the first presidential debate, the most anticipated in a generation. ... Her team is also getting advice from psychology experts to help create a personality profile of Mr. Trump to gauge how he may respond to attacks and deal with a woman as his sole adversary on the debate stage.”

INFLUENCED BY NUKES, POLLUTION
Scientists Declare Dawn of Anthropocene Epoch
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene—needs to be declared," according to a panel of scientists. "The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken."

Source:
EPI-PEN PRICES
House Committee Investigating Mylan
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has requested documents from the CEO of Mylan, "the pharmaceutical company under fire after raising the price of EpiPens more than 400 percent since 2007." Meanwhile, top members of the Energy and Commerce Committee are pressing the FDA on the lack of generic competition for EpiPens.

Source:
×