A group of lawyers investigating a violent crackdown in Myanmar that left Buddhist monks and villagers with serious burns has concluded that police used white phosphorus, a munition normally reserved for warfare, to disperse protesters.
The suppression in November of a protest outside a controversial copper mine in central Myanmar shocked the Burmese public after images of critically injured monks circulated across the country. It also gave rise to fears that the civilian government of President Thein Sein, which came to power in 2011, was using the same repressive methods as the military governments that preceded it.
Burmese attorneys together with an American human rights lawyer gathered evidence at the site of the protest, including a metal canister that protesters said was fired by the police. The canister was brought to a private laboratory in Bangkok, where a technician determined that residue inside it contained high levels of phosphorus. Access to the canister and a copy of the laboratory report were provided to a reporter.
“We are confident that they used a munition that contained phosphorus,” said U Thein Than Oo, the head of the legal committee of the Upper Burma Lawyers Network, which helped conduct the investigation. “They wanted to warn the entire population not to protest. They wanted to intimidate the people.”
White Phosphorus has many uses in war – as a smoke screen or incendiary weapon – but is rarely if ever used by police forces.
Reached on Wednesday, Zaw Htay, a director in the office of President Thein Sein, declined to comment on what kind of weapon was used. “I can’t say. I can’t answer,” he said.
John Hart, a senior researcher at the Chemical Weapons Program of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said by e-mail that although white phosphorus is not considered a chemical weapon under a 1993 international convention, it is banned from uses that “cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of the chemical.” Continue reading “BURMA – Myanmar Police Used Phosphorus on LADPADAUNG Protesters, Lawyers Say”