3 Nabbed in Mandalay on Suspicion of Trading Uranium

By Zarni Mann 14 January 2016

MANDALAY — Police in Mandalay apprehended three ethnic Chin men on Thursday on charges of illegally possessing uranium.

Ram Tham Zam, Lal Lian Zam and Ngun Zarl Htam were in possession of 2.1 kilograms of uranium concentrate powder purchased in India’s Mizoram State, according to police.

“They said they bought the powders with 600 million kyats, in India, and wanted to sell them back for profit. So they came to Mandalay,” Lt-Col Sein Htun, chief of the Mandalay District police office.

Because the materials originated in India, police said they would seek help from the Indian government to identify the source, who is a resident of the Mizoram capital Aizawl.

Sein Htun said police had received information that the three Chin men were traveling with illegal drugs. Their search instead produced a box labeled “Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. * SHILLONG INDIA * YELLOWCAKE,” containing two cans of powder.

“Although the labels on the carton say it’s uranium and the men were detained, we are planning to send [the materials] to the lab for further testing,” he said.

The anomalous find was first ever of its kind, Sein Htun said, adding, “we may need to open our eyes for further illegal trade.”

India has some of the world’s largest deposits of uranium, a radioactive element that can be enriched to produce nuclear energy and weapons. Once mined, uranium is ground down, processed, dried and filtered into yellowcake powder before enrichment.

Thursday’s seizure was not the first time a uranium find made headlines in Burma, however. Last year, US-blacklisted businessman Tay Za claimed to have purchased uranium samples in northern Burma, vowing to return and search for a deposit.

Tay Za told reporters at the time that he believed he was suffering mild symptoms of radioactive poisoning, and that he hoped Burma’s potential wealth of uranium could be harnessed for “national security.”