Indonesia will support Myanmar’s nuclear energy program for civilian use, said a top official on Friday, amid controversy concerning the junta’s poor human rights records and its nuclear weapon ambition.

Google photo of suspected Myanmar Junta nuclear site in Pyin Oo Lwin

Google photo of suspected Myanmar Junta nuclear site in Pyin Oo Lwin


Rezlan Ishar Jenie, Foreign Ministry’s Director General for Multilateral Affairs, said Myanmar, as a member of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), had the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, regardless of how the country has enforced its human rights.

“Our concern about [Myanmar’s] human rights records is separate from wishing to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” he said.

“We oppose nuclear weapons but not nuclear energy for peaceful use. The most important thing is the control from the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency],” said Rezlan during a memorial lecture and award presentation at the Indonesia’s Institute of Science (LIPI).

The Memorial lecture to commemorate LIPI first chairman, Sarwono Prawirohadjo, was delivered by Dewi Fortuna Anwar, senior researcher of the institute and also member of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board member on Disarmament Matters (2008-2009).

Indonesia is a loud critic of Myanmar, which harshly suppressed the political dissent. The Myanmar military regime, who refused to acknowledge the 1990 landslide victory of main opposition party, has jailed thousands of political prisoners and dissenters, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar’s court has recently handed out another 18 months of house arrest to Suu Kyi for violating her house arrest terms in a trial the global community called a “sham”. Yangon has also recently drawn international concerns over reports from Australia that Myanmar will develop nuclear weapons with the help of North Korea.

Indian authorities have intercepted a North Korean ship over suspicion that it contained radioactive material for Myanmar. Myanmar has said they aimed to build a nuclear power plant for electricity but the Sydney Morning Herald reported recently that North Korea is helping Myanmar build a secret nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction plan.

Map of Myanmar Junta nuclear site location - in remote town called Pyin Oo Lwin town.

Map of Myanmar Junta nuclear site location - in remote town called Pyin Oo Lwin town.

In response to the controversy of Myanmar’s purpose of importing nuclear materials, Rezlan said: “Every member of NPT has the right to develop nuclear energy for civilian use under the control of IAEA.”

He added the interception of shipment of nuclear materials from North Korea to Myanmar was conducted based on the decision of UN Security Council that ruled members to halt the transfer of all nuclear material to or from North Korea, and was not aimed at banning Yangon from developing nuclear energy.

“We have no problem if Myanmar wants to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purpose with the help of other countries,” said Rezlan, nodding in agreement when asked whether Jakarta agreed with Myanmar getting help from China in developing its nuclear technology.

Dewi, who delivered the speech on disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, said although the reports over Myanmar’s nuclear weapon strive had yet to be verified, it had sparked worries over the future of the region’s nuclear-weapons-free-zone deal signed under the ASEAN Bangkok Treaty.

“Myanmar is allowed to develop nuclear technology for peaceful use. However it has to be noted that there is not much difference between nuclear technology for peaceful use and for warfare. Uranium material can be converted into nuclear weapon through enrichment. That’s why the control over the use is very important,” she said. — Jakarta Post