Interest in nuclear energy is fast gaining momentum in South Asia and its immediate neighbourhood. While India and Pakistan have proven nuclear programmes including civil and military, there is a ‘resurgent interest’ in nuclear energy technology in Myanmar.
Myanmar aspires to develop nuclear technology and as a developing country, seeks to “narrow the development gap so as not to be marginalized”. Although it has given the alibi of ‘peaceful’ use of nuclear weapons as an alternative source for generating energy, Myanmar is virtually sitting on a lake of huge offshore oil and natural gas reserves that have the potential to meet its domestic demand for energy in the long future as various global reports show.
Until 1988, Myanmar’s nuclear plans had been shaping well but were suspended soon after the military junta came to power. But in 1996, Myanmar reactivated the Office of Strategic Studies to pursue nuclear infrastructure and in 1998 it passed the Atomic Energy Act that designated the Ministry of Science and Technology as the lead government agency for its nuclear programme.
In 2001, Myanmar announced plans to acquire a nuclear research reactor and approached the IAEA. The IAEA team concluded that Myanmar did not have requisite safety standards and could not be given the approval to proceed with the development of nuclear research reactor. Reportedly, Russia responded positively to Myanmar’s request and agreed to provide the necessary assistance which it has suspended now.
Myanmar is a signatory to the various international treaties (including PTBT, CTBT, NPT et al) that ban nuclear proliferation and its use other than for peaceful purposes under the supervision of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) various safeguard agreements in order to prevent it from falling in wrong hands like
global terrorist elements or rogue regimes which have the potential to rack havoc in the world leading to chaos and anarchy.
Above all, the ten members of the ASEAN that included Myanmar too, signed the historic “Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty” (SEANWFZ), known as ‘Bangkok Treaty’ in 1995.
Therefore, Myanmar’s quest for nuclear weapons now will be a death blow to this treaty, apart from its earlier international commitments under the global nuclear non-proliferation regimes as well as regimes on WMDs that includes nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons. Unless civil nuclear programmes flourish and gain greater acceptability among the ASEAN countries, Myanmar’s ongoing quest for acquiring nuclear weapons, though
still in its nascent stage, will inevitably lead to the subsequent nuclearisation of the volatile Southeast Asian region.
Read more at Myanmar’s Ongoing Quest For Nukes – OpEd