Is Myanmar's Embattled Regime Using Chemical Weapons?

(MENAFN- Asia Times) Myanmar's military is still reeling from the surprise Operation 1027 insurgent attacks in northern Shan state that overran over 140 bases, captured large caches of weapons and raised potent new questions about the State Administration Council (SAC) coup regime's survival.

But is the SAC's extraordinary setback driving it to use banned chemical weapons against the three main insurgent groups, known collectively as The Brotherhood, which spearheaded the lightning attacks and the military claims threaten to break up the nation?

On November 19, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army insurgent group released a public statement alleging that following its takeover of the Myanmar army's Sakham Thit base in Namkham township,“junta forces dropped a poisonous chemical bomb on the TNLA soldiers.”

The TNLA's statement further alleges that the SAC“committed a similar attack on November 4 by dropping a poisonous bomb upon Mong Kyat camp in Lashio township.”

According to the armed group statement,“although there were no any (sic) cuts or wounds on the victims' bodies, some of the TNLA soldiers suffered from (1) dizziness, (2) breathlessness, (3) nausea, (4) extreme agitation and fatigue, (5) low blood oxygen levels etc. The (TNLA) health providing necessary medical treatments to those comrades.”

No deaths have been reported in the alleged chemical attacks, and to date there has been no independent substantiation of the group's claims.

The Myanmar Now independent news outlet interviewed one Ta'ang soldier who claimed,“(t)he bomb went off with a hiss and released a gas. I fainted after inhaling the gas. I can't even remember who carried me from the frontline to the hospital. I still feel light-headed when I move too much.”

These are serious allegations and the TNLA's claims must be addressed by the international community. SAC spokesperson Major-General Zaw Min Tun characteristically dismissed the claims, but he hasn't uttered an honest syllable since the coup and would hardly admit to a potential war crime now.

Major General Zaw Min Tun has denied the TNLA's chemical weapon claim. Image: CNN Screengrab

However, there have been multiple allegations of the Myanmar military using chemical weapons against ethnic insurgents in the past. In the 1980s there were claims that Myanmar crop-dusting aircraft were spraying ethnic Shan villagers with 2,4-D defoliant, half the compound of the deadly Agent Orange that was supplied to then-Burma through a US
counter-narcotics program.

A General Accounting Office (GAO) report in 1989“could not accurately assess the program's safety”, but research by American human rights activists and writer Edith Mirante and her Project Maje convincingly documented misuse of the chemical.


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