Burma Ratifies Chemical Weapons Treaty

By Nobel Zaw 10 July 2015

RANGOON — Burma has ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, more than two decades after becoming a state signatory.

Foreign Affairs Minister Wunna Maung Lwin addressed the 79th executive council session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPWC) in The Hague, Netherlands, on Thursday, and will become the 191st state party to the protocol after 30 days.

“Myanmar is committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Convention and looks forward to cooperating with other States Parties to bring about a world completely free of chemical weapons,” the minister said in a statement by OPCW.

Burma was among the early signatories to the treaty, signing on in 1993, though several neighboring countries—including China and India—succeeded in ratifying much more quickly. Only five countries have yet to become members: Angola, Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan.

OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü said in a statement that “Myanmar’s membership will significantly strengthen the global prohibition against chemical weapons, especially in Asia.”

The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the production, development, possession, stockpiling, transfer and use of chemical weapons.

Once a country has ratified the convention and become a States Party, it must declare and destroy stockpiles of chemical weapons and related production sites. States Parties are also obligated to submit to international monitoring and verification.

Burma’s address to the OPCW ironically took place almost one year to the day of the sentencing of five media workers to lengthy prison terms with hard labor for reporting on an alleged chemical weapons plant.

The journalists—four reporters and the CEO of Unity Weekly journal—were found guilty of violating a colonial era state secrecy act while investigating a military-owned facility in Magwe, central Burma.

Initially sentenced to 10 years, their punishment was later reduced to seven years with hard labor, which they are currently serving. The infamous case brought international attention to Burma’s protracted non-party status.