Burmese insurgents say chemical weapons used against them

Soldiers from the insurgent Shan State Army in Burma claim that shells fired at a military base during a recent assault by Burmese troops caused illness and may have contained chemical components.

During an assault by approximately 200 Burmese soldiers on a seven mile base close to Mong Hsu in the central Shan State on June 3, two out of four shells fired at the base left SSA personnel feeling dizzy. Burmese troops later took the entire base and arrested one SSA soldier incapacitated by the attack, the Democratic Voice of Burma reports.

“They could not breathe properly and they vomited,” Sai Hpa, a colonel in the SSA, said, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma.

The use of chemical-laced shells could not be independently verified, though the symptoms were similar to descriptions of other alleged uses of chemical weapons elsewhere in Burma.

A Christian Solidarity Worldwide report in 2005 found circumstantial evidence that the Burmese army had fired mustard gas shells, leaving opposing Karenni Army troops vomiting and unable to walk.

In September 2009, the Kachin News Group quoted army sources saying that “mortars laced with chemical ingredients” were being supplied to Burmese battalions. One such weapon was reportedly fired during fighting in August between the Burmese army and an ethnic Kokang group. The shells, marked with red, yellow and green coloring, reportedly caused troops and civilians to bleed from the noses and ears.

Although the Burmese government signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, requiring states to destroy all chemical weapons by 2012, it has refused to ratify it. Officials in the U.S. have identified Burma as a “probable” chemical weapons processor in the past.