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  • » 06/08/2010, 00.00


    A silent international community faces Myanmar’s nuclear ambitions

    Tint Swe

    For the past ten years, Myanmar’s military junta has been involved in a secret nuclear weapons programme with the cooperation of North Korea. ASEAN and SAARC are doing nothing to stop the military regime in accordance with the principle of non-interference. “It is time for the world to act,” exiled Burmese minister says.
    New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Myanmar’s military junta is trying to develop nuclear weapons and long-range missiles with the assistance of North Korea, this according to documents collected by the Norway-based group Democratic Voice of Burma. Nonetheless, Myanmar’s generals remain far from achieving their objective.

    In the past, the military regime has always denied accusations that it sought a nuclear capability; however, back in May, United Nations experts monitoring North Korean nuclear tests said that Pyongyang was involved in nuclear activity in Iran, Syria and Myanmar.

    If this were true, Myanmar would be the first nation in South-East Asia to entertain nuclear ambitions. In turn, this would radically change the geopolitical equation in a region where many players like Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are close US allies.

    AsiaNews spoke about it to Tint Swe, a member of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), a government-in-exile set up by Myanmar refugees following the victory by the National League for Democracy in the 1990 parliamentary elections, whose results were never accepted by the military junta.

    He has lived in New Delhi since 21 December 1991 after escaping to India the year before.

    From time to time, Burma draws media attraction with news about military coups, popular uprisings, news of Aung San Suu Kyi, and more. Its gross human rights violations, state-sponsored forced labour practices and the use of child soldiers are not however appealing enough to create outside attention. Condemnations and resolutions by world bodies do not make the headlines either. However, the last piece of news is like volcanic ashes covering this year’s unfair election.

    The 37-page Nuclear Related Activities in Burma report by Robert E. Kelley and Ali Fowle could stir responsible media and the United States. A planned second visit by a US senator was cancelled because of that news.

    Neighbouring countries, which could be within missile range, have not yet made any statement. However, the region’s big nuclear powers know very well what kind of complications and compulsions being nuclear can entail.

    Experts are now calling for an independent assessment of the information received by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), an Oslo-based radio and TV broadcasting station run by Burma’s pro-democracy movement.

    The writers of the report have urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IATA) to look into the claims.

    Undoubtedly, for the people of Burma it is clear that the military leaders will do everything to hold onto power.

    For the authors of the report, Myanmar’s junta has no political philosophy other than greed and are scared of losing power and their ill-gotten wealth, which they want to pass on trusted friends and relatives. What is more, the report mentions unrealistic attempts at molecular laser isotope separation, unprofessional engineering drawings and crudely conducted work.

    Sadly, for many countries today international relations mean bypassing the real situation as told by suppressed peoples. Government-to-government relations are all that matters. Foreign ministers say that foreign policy is essentially about pragmatism, that nothing needs to be done if a neighbour goes nuclear.

    Myanmar’s regime wants nuclear weapons to ensure its immunity because of the repeated crimes it committed against its own people.

    The Association of South-East Asia Nations (ASEAN), whose members jointly signed the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in 1995, can be proud of the nuclear ambitions of one of its members. Even though the junta continues to violate the human rights of its people, the other nine members uphold the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states.

    ASEAN is not alone in this. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has embraced the junta.

    Information gathering started five years ago. It reveals that a secret plan was started a decade ago. Yet, the junta’s nuclear ambitions were already known, years ago, but no one believed it. Now it is time for the world to act and stop the junta.

    When nuclear experts from Pakistan travelled to Burma ten years ago, no one thought it was true.

    When the unholy alliance between Burma and North Korea came to light, Burmese language radios reported it.

    A suspicious North Korean ship, the Kang Nam I, docked at the port of Thilawa, whose shipyard was built by the China National Constructional and Agricultural Machinery Import and Export Co (CAMC) in early 2002. Only the United States took some steps against the North Korean ship. Materials from North Korea, Russia, Germany, Singapore, and Europe are already there, at Thabeikkyin, Pyin Oo Lwin, Myaing, and maybe at other unknown sites.

    This credible report is the latest leak from classified information from the junta. Before, pro-democracy groups received leaked information that includes secret reports on a number of high profile visits; they include an official visit by General Maung Aye, the junta’s second in command, to Russia in April 2006 on the invitation of the prime minister of the Russian Federation; one by the regime’s number 3, General Thura Shwe Mann, who made a secret visit to North Korea in November 2008, as well as the minutes of a meeting between Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam and Burmese Senior General Than Shwe on 6 March 2006.

    In January of this year, Major Win Naing Kyaw and U Thura Kyaw, a Foreign Ministry official, were sentenced to death for revealing state secrets. U Pyan Sein, a civilian, was also sentenced to 15 years in prison.

    The new hero, Major Sai Thein Win, has to be hiding somewhere on the planet if he does not want to become a second Mordecai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician who spent 18 years in prison for revealing details of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme in 1986. In

    The constitution the junta adopted unilaterally last year during Cyclone Nargis is part of the military’s strategy.

    Having nuclear ambitions means that the generals cannot share power with lawmakers form Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. They can only keep her under detention and eliminate the National League for Democracy.

    The upcoming election is but another way to keep Burma’s nuclear nightmare alive.

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    See also

    19/11/2007 MYANMAR – ASEAN
    ASEAN shows patience with Myanmar where arrests continue
    On the eve of ASEAN summit, the US warns that the organisation’s credibility is at stake. With Chinese help, Myanmar’s military regime continues its two-faced policy. A rap singer is arrested for showing off a religious tattoo.

    Ban Ki-moon will not see Burma’s real catastrophe
    The United Nations secretary-general is in Yangon, but the junta has “cleaned up” the areas he will visit. There are few hopes Mr Ban will get the generals to open up more to foreign aid. For them the United Nations is in the pockets of the United States.

    21/01/2010 MYANMAR
    Burmese monks and activists tried for 2007 anti-junta uprising
    Four monks and a teacher are among the accused. They allegedly took part in the “saffron revolution”, which was crushed in blood. The activists were arrested in September of last year and could get as much as seven years in prison. Currently, more than 250 monks are jailed in Myanmar.

    02/02/2009 MYANMAR
    Aung San Suu Kyi meets with UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari
    The pro-democracy leader leaves house arrest for an hour-long talk with the representative of the United Nations. Suu Kyi stresses that the visit of the UN secretary general is "conditioned" on the liberation of political prisoners. From the United Nations, a plan of economic assistance in exchange for concessions on matters of democracy and human rights.

    19/06/2008 MYANMAR
    Monks call on EU to bring junta leader to trial
    The request is to have Than Shwe tried by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity for blocking aid destined to victims of cyclone Nargis. Demonstrations in favour of Aung San Suu Kyi’s release take place.

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