Myanmar has arrested a group of journalists connected to a recent report about an alleged chemical-arms production plant in the Southeast Asian nation.
Over the weekend, the Myanmar Police Force’s Special Branch took into custody four journalists and the head of the small journal Unity, the Straits Times reported on Tuesday. The media personnel have been accused of revealing state secrets.
The Unity report about the alleged chemical plant, located in Myanmar’s central Magwe region, contained photographs and detailed a “secret chemical weapon factory of the former generals, Chinese technicians and the commander-in-chief at Pauk Township,” according to a summary by Irrawaddy magazine.
The so-called “24” facility reportedly was established in 2009 as part of a number of facilities connected by about 1,000 feet of tunnels. Unity reported that area residents had spotted Chinese workers at the plant.
Immediately prior to his Saturday arrest, Unity CEO Tint San said he had proof that the article’s assertions were true: “I went to the factory myself. “We have concrete evidence. I even left out some facts that might disclose state secrets. … I’m ready to face whatever happens in the future.”
The journal issue has been removed from magazine stands.
There have been previous reports, though never confirmed, of chemical arms sites in Myanmar, which is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention. There also have been unconfirmed reports of government troops last year using toxins against Kachin rebels in the country’s north.
Under the former ruling military junta, there were concerns about Myanmar researching nuclear weapons with assistance from North Korea. In recent years, the current nominally civilian-led government has worked hard to convince the international community it has no interest in nuclear arms or other unconventional weapons.