Jun 22, 2010

Sponsor: NED

Burma's Nuclear Ambitions

Missed the event? Watch it here:



Robert Kelley (video)
Former Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency
(Read Robert Kelley's report titled "Nuclear Activities in Burma" :: pdf)

Paul Donowitz ( video)
EarthRights International

Brian Joseph
National Endowment for Democracy

Q & A and concluding remarks :: video

In its new investigative documentary, Burma’s Nuclear Ambitions, the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reveals that Burma’s ruling generals have started a program to build nuclear weapons.  Although it has long been suspected that Burma has been pursuing a nuclear program, for the first time, the DVB, a longtime NED grantee, provides evidence of how, where, and why the military junta is pursuing this goal.

With a combination of high quality color photographs taken from the military’s own top secret files, expert analysis, and witness accounts, DVB’s documentary reveals the detailed nature of the regime’s intent. The huge amount of evidence collected by DVB over the last five years also reveals that the ruling junta is trying to develop long-range missiles and digging themselves in with a series of extensive military bunkers. 

Experts agree that Burma is far from achieving its nuclear goals. But many believe that with its stated intention to one day acquire nuclear weapons, its ambitions need be taken seriously now.

Robert Kelley, who appears in the DVB film and co-authored a report based on DVB’s information, discusses the major findings that are presented in the documentary and what might be the next steps forward for the international community. 

Mr. Kelley is joined by Paul Donowitz, the Campaign Director at EarthRights International, and Brian Joseph, Senior Director for Asia at the National Endowment for Democracy, to provide their insights on the social, economic, and political conditions inside Burma and what this new information could potentially reveal about Burmese society and the military junta.


Robert Kelley is a recently retired Director of the IAEA.  He is a nuclear engineer from the United States who has worked in the US Department of Energy Complex for over 30 years.  He has worked in nuclear nonproliferation efforts at Livermore, Los Alamos and was Director of the Remote Sensing Laboratory in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Bob has field experience as the Chief Inspector for IAEA in Iraq on several occasions including four years inspecting Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program in the 1992 and 2002 time periods.  He also participated in the evaluation of South Africa's nuclear weapons in 1993, and the inspections of the vestiges of Libya's nuclear weapons program in 2004. At IAEA headquarters he also served as a Senior Inspector for countries in South and Southeast Asia and Africa.  He has carried out weapons inspections in Libya, Iraq, and South Africa, and normal inspections in Egypt, Turkey, South Korea, Taiwan, Syria, Tanzania, Pakistan, India, and DR Congo, among others.  Bob's practical laboratory experience includes plutonium metallurgy, gas centrifuge design, weapons engineering, nuclear emergency response and remote sensing. He lives in the Vienna Woods suburb of Klosterneuburg, with his wife Kathy, who is a technical translator for the IAEA.

Paul Donowitz is the Campaign Director at EarthRights International (ERI), a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that combines the power of law and the power of people in defense of earth rights. ERI specializes in fact-finding, legal actions against perpetrators of earth rights abuses, training grassroots and community leaders, and advocacy campaigns. Mr. Donowitz is a 2003 graduate of Columbia University Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar along with serving on the Human Rights Law Review and in the Human Rights Clinic. He then worked as a Senior Policy Analyst at the Service Employees International Union, focusing on new market organizing in the public sector. He has served as National Coordinator for Students for a Free Tibet. Other experience includes work for Social Accountability International, a labor standard setting and accreditation organization, and experience conducting research and training in India with Tibetan human rights group. Paul holds an undergraduate degree in South Asian Studies and Sociology from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Brian Joseph is Senior Director for Asia and Global Programs at the National Endowment for Democracy.  He served as Director for South and Southeast Asia programs at NED from 2005 to 2009.  In this capacity, he oversaw millions of dollars worth of grants to hundreds of civil society organizations in the region. He travels regularly to the region. Brian has spoken widely and written about Burma, Pakistan, Thailand, human rights in Asia, and democracy promotion in closed societies. He has testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations' Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, provided high-level briefings for State Department officials, and taught at the Foreign Service Institute. Brian formerly served as a volunteer South Asia regional coordinator for Amnesty International USA and he is a member of the International Human Rights Funders' Group and the Burma Donors' Forum. He has a BA in History from Colorado College and an MA in South Asian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Related Media

Burma is working on nuclear weapons programme, experts claim, By Alex Spillius in Washington and Damien McElroy, Telegraph, July 26, 2010.

Foreign Policy: Burma's Nuclear Ambitions, by Christian Caryl, NPR, June 15, 2010.

Myanmar Denies Interest in Nukes, Nuclear Threat Initiative, June 14, 2010.

Evidence points to Myanmar nuclear program, UPI.com, June 7, 2010.

Does Burma have a WMD program?, by Andrew Selth, Lowy Institute for International Policy, June 7, 2010.