Journalists Detained for Reporting Alleged Burmese Chemical Weapons Factory

Myanmar, Burma, Army, tatmadaw, chemical weapons, media, press, state secrets

A girl selling weekly journals waits for customers in Rangoon. (Photo: Reuters)

Four journalists and the CEO of the Rangoon-based Unity journal have been detained by the Burma police force’s Special Branch after the newspaper reported the existence of an alleged chemical weapons factory in central Burma.

The news report last week—under the headline: “A secret chemical weapon factory of the former generals, Chinese technicians and the commander-in-chief at Pauk Township”—included photographs of the supposed chemical weapons plant in Magwe Division.

Lu Maw Naing, a reporter for the journal based in Pauk Township, and CEO Tint San were detained on Friday and Saturday, respectively, apparently for publishing state secrets.

According to his family, Lu Maw Naing was taken in for questioning on Friday night. On Saturday morning, his family was informed there would be no bail as he is facing a charge of exposing state secrets, and that he would be moved to the custody of Special Branch in nearby Pakokku.

“Police from Pauk police station said giving bail was beyond their authority. And they said higher authorities from Naypyidaw will question him,” said Lu Maw Naing’s wife, Ma Lwin.

“The township judge told me that he will have to face a law suit. This afternoon, the police said he was handed over to Pakokku.”

Also on Saturday morning, Tint San was arrested by Police Special officers at the Unity journal’s Rangoon office, according to his assistant, Thiha Aung.

“Three officers came and took him away saying they have some questions. We do not know where he was taken and what will happen yet,” said Thiha Aung.

Three other journalists, Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw and Sithu Soe were also detained Saturday, she said.

“We have to make sure first what is happening with our journalists and editor-in-chief, and we will consult with our lawyers and the Myanmar Press Council about this case and decide what to do.”

Speaking to The Irrawaddy shortly before he was detained, Tint San insisted that the journal has evidence to back up its claim about the chemical weapons factory.

“I went to the factory myself. We have concrete evidence. I even left out some facts that might disclose state secrets,” he said. “I’m ready to face whatever happens in the future.”

The issue of the Unity journal containing the report has reportedly been pulled from shelves by the authorities.

The report in question described in detail the facility, saying it is made up of buildings around a hill that are linked by more than 1,000 feet of tunnels. The facility is known only by the number 24.

The report said Chinese technicians had been seen by locals working at the factory, and said several metal boilers and large quantities of cement had been transported there. Locals said staff at the facility have told them they are producing chemical weapons, according to the report.

The claims could not be independently verified.

The report also said that the factory was visited by Burma Army’s former commander-in-chief, Snr Gen Than Shwe, in 2009, current Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing in 2011 and in 2013 by former Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo and current Vice President Nyan Htun.

The facility was built in 2009 on more than 3,000 acres of land confiscated from farmers, the report said.

Additional reporting by Sanay Lin.

14 Responses to Journalists Detained for Reporting Alleged Burmese Chemical Weapons Factory

  1. It hurts. When truth is told, it really hurts. If this plant is run without the knowledge of Hlutdaw, it is absolutely illegal. Where does the fund come from? From communist China? From the Defense Budget? Hlutdaw has to know it. If Defense Ministry is running this factory believed to produce chemical weapon, Thein Sein administration is in big big trouble. It has many questions to answer. The reporters must be released immediately and government needs to be ready to answer questions from inside and outside Myanmar. I thank the brave reporters who revealed the illegal activities of illegal regime of Myanmar.

  2. By arresting reporters, Myanmar regime is inflicting itself than reporters did to it. The Myanmar people will have more questions to the regime. The UN will have more questions about the regime’s trustworthiness. Especially the trustworthiness on reform toward democracy. So far, we the people do not trust this regime at all. The color of the regime is still the same with military dictatorship. If the reporters die in the custody of the regime, the regime will be in deeper problem in the face of the earth. Dishonest regime has no position to lead us into democratic society. Thein Sein, Shwe Mann and Min Aung Haling have to leave for good.

  3. Freedom of press/ freedom of media/ freedom of speech is not there in Myanmar if you reveal the truth about regime. Detained reporters must be released immediately now. Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing rather try to be ready to answer questions. Arresting reporters will not make the regime look good but even dirtier.

  4. When we look at USDP and the Thein Sein administration, we see lies, dishonesty, crookedness, selfishness, remains of past military dictatorship and evil spirit. They may think they are cheating us successfully but we have seen all their evil schemes. They never change their evil behavior until now.

  5. Their harsh reaction shows that what the reporter wrote was the truth. They themselves admitted tacitly when they said he had exposed state secrets. How embarrassing!

  6. A people that wants to be free must arm itself with a free press.

  7. It actually reminds me the experience of meeting a local salesclerk of a small town pointing to the moutain where USA missile silos in Nevada were located .Everybody seem to know.

  8. This shows who is the most powerful man in Burma “ Mr. Than Shwe”. If you dare to touch or expose anything related Mr. Than Shwe, you will be burned by GAS , prisoned or disappeared from this world. Thein Sein’s word for U Wirathu as son of Buddha is not his own word but parroting Than Shwe’s one. Thien Sein poor guy is puppet of Than Shwe.
    Military Thugs fooled or intimidated Burmese people for 50 years. Now they start to fool international community. They are going to succeed.

  9. It is absolutely foolish for police to detain or harass journalists. Burma/Myanmar has made some great progress, to which I’m very glad and grateful.

    This only takes a step back to what’s accomplished so far. A true democratic society needs a real freedom of press.

    President U Thein Sein needs to investigate this and make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. Ultimately, constitution needs to be changed so that military doesn’t have 25% voting block. Military defends the country in time of war and chaotic time. Military has no business, no background in running the country.

  10. Burmese Government must open alleged chemical weapon factory site to UN weapon inspectors for inspection as soon as possible. UN must request Burmese Government for to inspect alleged chemical weapon factory.

    I think four journalists and the CEO of the Rangoon-based Unity journal go to far and wrong way because they do not know definitely the site was producing chemical weapon. If they doubt about that site was using for to produce chemical weapon and then they should alarm to UN or US Embassy instead of publishing in journal.
    They are naive for publishing such as news in journal. The freedom of information or news does not always free. They need to mark the line themselves and recognize sometime they shouldn’t cross the line. If they want to reveal the unlawful activity of Government and then there are many ways to expose illegal activity of Government. It must not be exposed by their journal. This is lesson for other journalists in Burma and they need to careful about crossing line and use information they get wisely.

  11. Burma has no Chemical weapons.

    This is psychological warfare from KA KA PYI.

  12. David Law is quite right. How can the journalists have been arrested for breaking state secrets if they were incorrect and there is no weapons plant?

  13. Burma had Chemical weapons in the past.

    Than Shwe discussed with Lt Gen Tin Tun (air) and bombed(chemicals) on to the Karen villagers in Donthami areas in 1993 and 1994.

    They used Air Force single engine PC7,stationed at Prome .All chemical bombs are attached with Radio sondes from Burmese meteorology Department.Than Shwe used PC7s for night time bombing.

    Nargis U Tun Lwin was an eye witness when Air Force Officers came and brought many Radio Sondes from Met Dept at Kabaaye.

  14. Maung Lu Aye ( Law ) R.A.S.U.1976

    Four Reporters reveal the Secret of the Present Govt ” Secret Chemical Weapon Factory ” with Photographs to the Public bravely . And they were detained Now . There are No freedom of Speech , Freedom of Press in our Country .
    Yet, Burma Quasi Govt said they want Peace and hypocritically ( pretending ) Ceasefire agreement with Kachin & Karen / KNLA . The Peace loving Sugar Coated Quasi Govt / Military Never Ever want Peace As I had written before .
    I was deeply sad that the four reporters were detained . The Military & Govt is very Sensitive that The Secrets were Uncover , while they didn’t want the Burmese People or the Global Community know about their Wrongdoing.
    Why were they built and producing the Chemical Weapons instead of building Schools, Hospitals , Libraries & Universities . Crystal Clear that they don’t want People to get Knowledge , Sound Bodies & Soung Minds , but disabled People that the People Have No time to Protest them or Revolt them .
    Burma’s Reporters and Journalists Association should submit Grievances to the International Journalist Association, whether Win or No Win, but to fight Unjustice .

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