Status: Substantial evidence points toward Burmese collaboration with North Korea in the development of a secret nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facility. The reactor could be operational as early as 2014.
Why you should worry: Suspicions of a nascent Burmese nuclear weapons program are widespread. In July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly worried about military cooperation between North Korea and Burma, saying, "It would be destabilizing for the region. It would pose a direct threat to Burma's neighbors." Clinton's worries are validated by the reports of two recent Burmese defectors, one a former business executive involved in Burma's nuclear contracts, and the other an officer in a secret nuclear battalion in the Burmese Army, whose roles in Burma's clandestine nuclear program were described in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Tensions have been rising between Burma and Bangladesh since 2008, with a border dispute and a buildup of military forces along the disputed area. The tension has risen palpably; in the past two weeks, in addition to heavy tanks and artillery, at least five Burmese and four Bangladeshi warships have faced off across the Bay of Bengal. With both countries looking to go nuclear, the prospect of this conflict exploding is only more worrying.
Plus, the Burmese junta has substantial internal instability to contend with. There are reports of a recent "clearance sale" of heroin by ethnic militias, who are rushing to sell off the drugs to finance enormous weapons purchases. The drugs are being sold at bargain-basement prices in preparation for a possible resumption of civil war. These ethnic groups have been fighting the government on and off for more than 60 years. The fighting has largely occurred in Burma's border areas, but a resumption of wide-scale violence also carries the threat of discouraging foreign investments in Burma's energy sector, further weakening and isolating an already dangerous regime.