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Myanmar may have chemical weapons stockpile: US

Myanmar is in breach of a global
convention banning chemical weapons and may have a stockpile left over from
the 1980s, the United States said on Monday.

The southeast Asian nation may still have weapons at a “historic” facility
where mustard gas was produced, a senior State Department official told the
annual meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Myanmar officially joined the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which bans
the production, storage and use of chemical arms, in 2015.

“The US has serious concerns that a chemical weapons stockpile may remain
at Myanmar’s historical chemical weapons facility,” Thomas DiNanno, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State, told the OPCW in The Hague.

Washington had information that Myanmar “had a chemical weapons programme
in the 1980s that included a sulphur mustard development programme and
chemical weapons production facility”, he added.

“Based on available information, the United States certifies that Myanmar
is in non-compliance with the CWC, due to its failure to declare its past
chemical weapons programme and to destroy its chemical weapons facility.”

Myanmar has previously faced accusations of storing and using such weapons.

In 2013, a parliamentary report said police had used phosphorus the
previous year against protesters at a copper mine in the north of the
country, causing severe burns.

In July 2014, five journalists from Myanmar were sentenced to 10 years in
prison with hard labour over an article accusing the military of producing
chemical arms.

The previous year, Myanmar’s then quasi-civilian government denied using
chemical weapons against rebels from the Kachin ethnic minority during
clashes in the north of the country.

The US official said Washington had held talks with Myanmar’s civilian
government and military over the issue and “stands ready to assist Myanmar”
to destroy the weapons.

Myanmar was the 191st State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which
came into force in 1997 and is monitored by the OPCW for compliance.

In 2005, London-based rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide accused
the former military junta of using chemical weapons against rebels from the
Karen community.

The US allegation comes as Myanmar faces growing international legal
pressure over its treatment of another minority — the Muslim Rohingya,
thousands of whom were forced to flee to Bangladesh in a huge military
operation in 2017.

Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due to travel to the International
Court of Justice in The Hague in December to lead the defence in a genocide
case against Myanmar.

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