Skip to main content

Myanmar's nuclear ambition: will the world be able to handle another North Korea?

By Dr Arpita Hazarika* 

It has been reported that Myanmar is working on nuclear weapons with assistance from Russia. We all know that Myanmar is known to us as a regional peace destabilizer and we can't simply be silent about those developments. It has many implications. Firstly, regional countries' relationship with Myanmar as neighbours is not satisfactory, there are frequent dissatisfaction. Secondly, we have regional disputes such as Rohingya refugee crisis, smuggling, Myanmar military’s continuous arrogance in the region, defying international law, customs etc. Moreover, Myanmar military dictatorship has been ruling this country for a significant period of time exhibiting less chance for a democratic govt. in the near future.
We already have lot many neighbouring countries in this part of the globe having nuclear power like India, China and Pakistan. Now, Myanmar is going to join this club too! Will the world be able to deal with this another North Korea? Myanmar is going to Southeast Asian North Korea. What will be the next courses of action for us? Is there any discussion or a strategic or diplomatic policy that has been taken by our regional government highlighting this matter? I think it is time to think again, we can't ignore the things around us.
So, it is high time for all regional countries to take necessary steps regarding these issues in a peaceful manner, so that it will not be too late. It is our right to be safe as nations.
Russia and Myanmar have agreed to continue their nuclear cooperation recently. According to international media outlets’ reports, Myanmar’s cherished nuclear ambitions are backed by Russia, whose own ambitions are to create as many problems as it can for the western world. If Russia continues to help Myanmar to be nuclear Myanmar, its implications in South and Southeast Asia would be definitely dangerous . Nuclear free zone Southeast Asia would be nuclear zone. Arms race would be mandatory for the Southeast Asia. Although this would be strategic gain for some powers, but ultimately nuclear tension is confirmed in the Asean region. If Myanmar acquires nuclear capability, it would be disaster for South and Southeast Asia. All regional countries would be facing security threat from Myanmar directly. Nuclear Myanmar is going to direct threat to not only for all regional countries. South and Southeast Asia is going to be vulnerable permanently if Myanmar continues to pursue its long-cherished nuclear ambitions. Definitely, the military junta would use the weapons against various ethnic rivals, and insurgents. Not only so that, but the whole Southeast Asian region would also be volatile, and unstable for the stupidity of the Myanmar junta. Myanmar’s aggressive behavior would be growing day by day. Recent border tensions between Myanmar-Bangladesh are the best example to understand and realize that. Myanmar’s military is so brutal, and cruel that it has been carrying out airstrikes on its people. Thus, the nuclear weapons in the hand of the Myanmar military are more dangerous than North Korea even.
For example, the foreign ministry summoned Myanmar's ambassador to Bangladesh, Aung Kyaw Moe, on September 18, 2022, for the fourth time in protest of the troubled neighbor's continuous violations of Bangladesh's air and land space in recent weeks. Myanmar has been embroiled in a civil conflict since mid-August, and throughout this time, shells have crossed the Bangladesh border. On September 16, a mortar bomb launched from Myanmar exploded in a Rohingya camp, killing one 18-year-old and injuring five others. Additionally, on September 3, military aircraft from Myanmar conducted coordinated shooting attacks from fighter jets and helicopters while in Bangladeshi airspace, putting the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) on notice.
One of Bangladesh's closest neighbors is Myanmar. Unfortunately, the nation does not behave in a very neighborly manner. In a raid on the Rakhine state on August 25, 2017, the Myanmar army massacred the Rohingya community and burned their homes on fire. More than 700,000 Rohingyas fled this cruelty and sought refuge in Bangladesh. Thousands of Rohingyas have previously traveled from Myanmar to Bangladesh at various points in time.1.25 million Rohingyas are currently listed as living in Bangladesh's numerous refugee camps. Releasing them has been difficult for Myanmar. Bangladesh is obligated to pay. Bangladesh has been the victim of numerous lies from the nation.
Myanmar has consistently infringed on Bangladesh's sovereignty. This is a big surprise. At the border, no state has the authority to infringe on another state's sovereignty. This is obviously against international law, standards, and traditions. The government of Myanmar must take into account the cordial ties between the two nations. It must keep in mind that Bangladesh is a sovereign nation and that firing shells into the border by itself, whether on purpose or accidentally, is unacceptable. Myanmar has no right to infringe on the territory of another state. In the international community, this mindset is unacceptable.
An agreement signed by Myanmar’s military regime and Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation to jointly assess building a small reactor in the Southeast Asian country underscores the junta’s long-term pursuit of nuclear weapons, analysts said.
Myo Thein Kyaw, the regime’s minister of science and technology; Thuang Han, minister of electric power; and Alexey Likhachev, chief executive officer at Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation, signed the “roadmap for cooperation upon its own citizens” while they attended the Eastern Economic Forum on Sept. 5-8 in Vladivostok. Junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing oversaw the signing of the agreement.
The deal would further Russian-Myanmar cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, and assess the feasibility of a small-scale nuclear reactor project in Myanmar, Rosatom said in a statement issued Sept. 6.
The same day, the junta announced that it would use nuclear energy for electricity generation, scientific research, medicine production, and industry.
There is no doubt Myanmar has a nuclear program. It sent scientists, technicians, and army officers to Russia for training in recent years. And Moscow has agreed to supply Myanmar, formerly Burma, with a small nuclear reactor for civilian use. The question is, why is the world silent in this regard? Why did ASEAN not raise the concern this time?
Myanmar (Burma) has been carrying out rudimentary steps toward developing nuclear weapons, a documentary released in June by an opposition group alleges. The documentary by the Democratic Voice of Burma featured information provided by Sai Thein Win, a former officer in the Myanmar army. Win claimed to have been deputy manager of special machine tool factories involved in Myanmar’s secret nuclear weapons efforts and ballistic missile development program.
The opposition group also issued a corresponding report on June 3 featuring an analysis of Win’s information by former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector Robert Kelley. Kelley claimed in the report that, taken collectively, the technology featured in Win’s information “is only for nuclear weapons and not civilian use or nuclear power.”
Burma’s nuclear ambitions, spotlighted by last month’s announcement that Russia has agreed to help the regime build a nuclear research facility, date back at least seven years. In December 1995, the junta signed the Bangkok Treaty, banning the development, manufacture, possession, control, stationing, transport, testing, or use of nuclear weapons under the terms of the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Five years later, after a visit to Moscow by Burma’s minister for science and technology, U Thaung, the junta’s nuclear plans became clearer” The junta’s recent confirmation that it will build a small-scale nuclear power plant in the next few years caps Myanmar’s long pursuit of nuclear technology dating back to early 2000.
The Southeast Asian country’s two-decade-long journey to nuclear capability was made possible by Russia after a series of engagements that accelerated under the current junta and its military predecessor.
Though the current regime insists nuclear energy would be used for peaceful purposes in Myanmar, which has been hit by chronic electricity shortages, many believe this is the first step in a plan to utilize nuclear energy for military purposes including the production of nuclear weapons.
In 2009, it was reported that Myanmar was suspected of having initiated a nuclear weapons program. If such a program does exist, Burma’s technical and financial limitations may make it difficult for the program to succeed. The United States expressed concern in 2011 about potential violations of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), though by 2012 these concerns had been “partially allayed.” Burma has faced persistent accusations of using chemical weapons.
In 2007, Russia and Burma did a controversial nuclear research center deal. According to them, “The centre will comprise a 10MW light-water reactor working on 20%-enriched uranium-235, an activation analysis laboratory, a medical isotope production laboratory, silicon doping system, nuclear waste treatment, and burial facilities”.
According to an August 2009 report published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Burma had been working to develop a nuclear weapon by 2014. The reported effort, purportedly being undertaken with assistance from North Korea, involves the construction of a nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facilities in caves tunneled into a mountain at Naung Laing, a village in the Mandalay division. The information cited in the newspaper story reportedly originated from two high-ranking defectors who had settled in Australia.
On June 3, 2010, a five-year investigation by an anti-government Myanmar broadcaster, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), found evidence that allegedly shows the country’s military regime began a programme to develop nuclear weapons. The DVB said evidence of Myanmar’s nuclear programme came from top-secret documents smuggled out of the country over several years, including hundreds of files and other evidence provided by Sai Thein Win, a former major in the military of Myanmar. A UN report said there was evidence that North Korea had been exporting nuclear technology to Burma, Iran, and Syria. Now, Russia supports Myanmar’s nuclear program openly.
Based on Win’s evidence, Robert Kelley, a former weapons inspector, said he believed Burma “has the intent to go nuclear and it is… expending huge resources along the way.” But as of 2010, experts said that Burma was a long way from succeeding, given the poor quality of its current materials. Despite Kelley’s analysis, some experts are uncertain that a nuclear weapons programme exists; for example, the Institute for Science and International Security notes ambiguity as to whether certain equipment is used for uranium production, or for innocently producing “rare earth metals or metals such as titanium or vanadium.” The U.S. expressed concern in 2011 about possible NPT violations, but by 2012 stated that its concerns had been “partially allayed.”
Myanmar signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on September 26, 2018, but has not ratified it.
On 15 December 1995, ASEAN Member States signed the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ Treaty) as a commitment to preserve the Southeast Asian region as a region free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The Treaty is also known as the Bangkok Treaty. Through this treaty, ASEAN reaffirms the importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and in contributing towards international peace and security. It also marks the establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) in Southeast Asia – one among five NWFZs in the world. The other four NWFZs are in Latin America and the Caribbean, South Pacific, Africa, and Central Asia.
The Protocol to the SEANWFZ Treaty welcomes the signing and early ratification of the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS), which will contribute to the promotion of the realisation of a Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. Efforts are underway toward the accession of the NWS to the Protocol.
Myanmar’s attitude is contradictory to the Protocol to the SEANWFZ Treaty. Whatever may be the truth, the fact remains that nuclear Myanmar is not in India, China, or all neighbouring countries' interst. They cannot afford to have another nuclear power along its border. Other regional countries would definitely feel insecure. The direct nuclear threat from Myanmar would destabilize the whole region in the long run. If nuclear deterrence works, then the arms race is a must in the region. Myanmar’s this dangerous ambition would take a relaxation from all stakeholders in the region. West should join with all regional countries and ASEAN to pressure Myanmar to give up its nuclear (weapons) ambitions. They must take action like in the Iran case, Otherwise, the world is going to see another nuclear threat in the Southeast region. Instead of developing nuclear weapons, the world must compel Myanmar to focus on bringing back democracy and resolving problems like HIV AIDS, human trafficking, rape, drug abuse, child soldiers, forced labour, ethnic crisis, refugee issues, and corruption. All bordering and neighbouring countries of Myanmar must be cautious in this regard.
The only peaceful course of action is for Myanmar to promptly implement appropriate measures to cease all forms of unwelcome behavior in the border area in order to preserve regular ties between the two nations. All regional countries must raise the issue in international community to stop Myanmar to commit such heinous activities. Russia must stop its heinous secret mission in Myanmar to keep stable Asean region as its status co ‘nuclear free.’
---
*Gauhati University, Assam, India-based researcher, interested in refugee affairs, political economy, security and strategic affairs and foreign policies of the Asia-Pacific region, has researched on India-Bangladesh affairs

Comments

TRENDING

Zakir Naik tumult, Catholic Church power abuse: will Anwar Ibrahim save Malaysia?

Anwar Ibrahim By Jay Ihsan*  Anwar Ibrahim, a hardcore reformist who took a punch to his eye in 1998 from then inspector-general of police, Rahim Noor, has finally been given the mandate by Malaysians to serve as the nation's 10th prime minister. Anwar knows too well the burden of staying true to both trust and faith the people have in him requires every once of commitment and dedication. The question is will he be apologetic for his transgressions enroute to "rebuilding" Malaysia? In his overzealousness to get the job done, Anwar, 75, needs to safeguard every bit of gumption to address prickling issues plaguing the safety of the nation especially those involving communal sensitivities. For one, dare Anwar get rid of terrorist hate preacher and fugitive Zakir Naik for inciting religious unrest in Malaysia? In November 2016, India’s counter-terrorism agency filed an official complaint against Naik, holding him responsible for promoting religious hatred and unlawful activi

Although sporting genius, Wasim Akram was mascot of cricket globalisation era

By Harsh Thakor*  Since Independence India and Pakistan produced a galaxy of cricketing stars that permeated cricketing artistry of legendary heights. Amongst this bunch.Wasim Akram manifested pure cricketing genius to the greatest height.I speculate how India’s fortunes would have changed had partition not taken place and Wasim playing for India. Wasim Akram explored realms untranscended in bowling wizardry, like a painter devising new art forms or a scientist experimenting. He simply re-defined the art of reverse swing, reversing the ball in and out. There were bowlers quicker, more accurate and with better records, but none equalled Wasim in an all-round package. He was more lethal with a new and old ball than any fast bowler ever. Wasim could produce balls that were surreal, with his reverse swing, defying laws of bio mechanics He was simply the epitome of versatility, possessing a repertoire of six different deliveries within an over itself, disguising deliveries in the manner of

Galileo-Catholic church affair: must history repeat at Malaysia’s St Francis Xavier church?

By Jay Ihsan*  Christianity is the enemy of liberation and civilization -August Bebel Christianity taught men that love is worth more than intelligence -Jacques Maritain Real Christianity can be summed up in two commands: Love God and love people. - Joyce Meyer Pious XI was too neutral to mention the gas chambers; decent people like my own family were turned into devils by crude Christianity - Lionel Blue Religious doctrines cannot escape the liberty of thoughts and expression. To each their own, so it is said. From all things nice to all things that make one cringe - religion is polarised and in this regard, Christianity has over time faced the wrath of bigotry espoused by those "bequeathed" to protect it. Take Pope Francis for example. He had a secret meeting with giant pharma Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla last year while the world struggled to make sense of the word "lockdown" and suffer adverse effects of the Corona virus vaccines produced by Pfiz

Qatar World Cup has a strong Bangladesh connection: stadium construction, t-shirts

By Mashrur Siddique Bhuiyan*  The FIFA World Cup fever has unquestionably cut through the minds of mass people all over the world. Stadiums in Qatar are buzzing with football fans and athletes representing their countries at the “Greatest Show on Earth". The magic of the FIFA World Cup is so enormous that even being unable to participate does not matter much to the fans who support different nations. This is one of the highest viewed events in the world, with the 2018 event viewed by about 3.6 billion people worldwide. But this crowd is not aware of the contribution of migrant workers who helped build the very stadiums where the matches are playing in. Qatar won the bid in 2010 to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, which got the oxymoron of celebration and controversy. This also created the potential for Qatar to Showcase its monumental economic achievements and unique culture on the global stage. The motto for Qatar’s bid team in 2010 was ‘Expect Amazing’ and migrant workers across th

Floods: As ax falls on most vulnerable, Pak seeks debt cancellation, climate justice

By Tanupriya Singh  Even as the floodwaters have receded, the people of Pakistan are still trying to grapple with the death and devastation the floods have left in their wake. The floods that swept across the country between June and September have killed more than 1,700 people, injured more than 12,800, and displaced millions as of November 18. The scale of the destruction in Pakistan was still making itself apparent as the world headed to the United Nations climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November.  Pakistan was one of two countries invited to co-chair the summit. It also served as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) and China for 2022, playing a critical role in ensuring that the establishment of a loss and damage fund was finally on the summit’s agenda, after decades of resistance by the Global North. “The dystopia has already come to our doorstep,” Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman told Reuters. By the first week of September, pleas for h

A classic, 'Gandhi' ignores merciless cruelty unleashed on militant freedom fighters

By Harsh Thakor  The movie ‘Gandhi’ produced by Richard Attenborough, which was released 40 years ago on November 30th, 1982, was classic in it's own right. Ironical that it took an Englishman to embark upon the making of a film on this legendary figure. I can't visualize a better pictorial portrayal of Gandhi's life or an actor getting in the skin of the character an exuding the mannerisms as actor Ben Kingsley. Episodes are crafted and grafted surgically, illustrating how Gandhi wove fragmented bits into a cohesive force, to confront he British empire. Most boldly the movie unfolds how British colonialism subjugated the Indian people to barbaric cruelty. With great mastery the cinematography captures the vast Indian landscapes and essence of livelihood of Indians under colonial rule. The movie most illustratively shows the crystallisation of anti-colonial fervour from the embryonic stage and how it fermented into an integrated movement. In a most subtle manner it illustr

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Bangladesh's ties with Myanmar, Nepal, China need connectivity with India's NE states

By Samara Ashrat*  On 26th November, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India is trying to improve trade and connectivity with Bangladesh and Myanmar on his two-day visit to India's Northeast region. He emphasized the importance of linking Northeastern India to the rest of the nation and reiterated Delhi is working to improve connectivity and infrastructure in the region. By taking the G20 presidency India will try to showcase the true spirit of the Northeast to the world, with its tourism benefits. But, the umbilical cord between the Indian mainland and North Eastern Region is Chicken's Neck or Siliguri corridor which brings Bangladesh into the Indian equation of northeastern development. Not only that, Bangladesh has very close relations with West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura in terms of language, culture, and history. These factors make Bangladesh an inextricable element of the development of the northeastern states. Tourism Sector and Con

25 years of CHT peace accord: A glorious chapter of conflict resolution in Bangladesh

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder*  Conflicts between the Bangladesh army and Shanti Bahini persisted in the Chittagong Hill Tracts for more than two decades. On December 2, 1997, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) and the Bangladeshi government signed the CHT Accord, putting an end to the violent armed conflict and improving the life of a lot of the people there. It has been made possible through just seven meetings under the worthy leadership of Sheikh Hasina. The historic peace agreement created an atmosphere of peace in the mountainous region. An atmosphere of peace has been established by ending the armed conflict. The geographical features and ethnic diversity of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) are distinctive. The 13,184 square kilometer territory is bordered by Myanmar and the Indian state of Mizoram on the East and Tripura on the North. With its 1.6 million people, it entails great importance to Bangladesh for its geopolitical location. Due to the conflict-prone Northeast Indi

Film on evidence of viability of in situ communitarian urban water management

By Rahul Banerjee  Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear that centralised urban water management in India is in deep crisis. Water supply is both inadequate and extremely costly, water harvesting and recharging and used water treatment and reuse are mostly absent and storm water management is a disaster. Under the circumstances, the only viable solution is communitarian in situ water management and this is what has been proposed in the latest guidelines of both the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation and the Swacch Bharat Mission. Our NGO, Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti , has not only implemented communitarian in situ water management but has also carried out research to provide evidence of the unviability of centralised water management and the suitability of the former. Here is a film based on a detailed research that I did on urban water management in Chhattisgarh for the National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi, that succinctly critiques cen