Desmond Ball Unbound
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Interview

Desmond Ball Unbound


By Desmond Ball Tuesday, June 1, 2004


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(Page 3 of 3)

But they’re smart enough when it comes to policy discussions between members of the junta not to use telephones and other communications systems which can be monitored.

So you really have to [make] a very clear distinction between…intelligence about military matters and intelligence about political developments. And it may well be where most of the intelligence is known, like at the military level, is in fact the least important area. Less is known about political developments but they’re the really important developments.

Q: What kind of signals and human intelligence capabilities does the junta have in Thailand?

A: Their capabilities for radio and telephone interception within Thailand are very substantial but not comprehensive. In Bangkok, there is a major intercept station in the office of the Defense Attache near the embassy there, which would be able to monitor a wide range of telephone and radio communications; in other words, the particular frequencies that they’re interested in and the particular telephone numbers and subscribers that they’re interested in. I believe also that in Chiang Mai that they have had at different times the capabilities for monitoring telephone conversations as well…

In other places along the border, such as in Myawaddy, they have limited capabilities, limited geographical capabilities; in other words they can monitor telephone communications within the Mae Sot area but they would not be able to do this systematically right throughout Thailand and not right down the Thai-Burma border. It would depend on where they’ve been able to install receivers for monitoring, not just the analog but more particularly the digital mobile telephone communications, and that’s not an easy job to do. So there’d be particular places such as Myawaddy where they can do it but not comprehensively.

Q: Is Thailand the most important country in Southeast Asia that Burma would listen to?

A: Yes. Burma does have listening posts over on the western border for monitoring Indian communications and for monitoring communications in Assam and the Naga area and places like that. And the station at Great Coco that they have with the Chinese provides them with extensive capabilities for monitoring other forms of communications, including satellite communications coming down into that particular geographical area. But it’s along the Thai border that their capabilities are much more comprehensive where they would try to monitor a much larger proportion of the communications, and that includes communications of groups operating within Burma itself. In other words the communications of particular ethnic groups which do operate on the Thai side of the border as well as the communications of Thai military and civil authorities.

Q: What about Thailand towards Burma?

A: Thailand has very advanced and very extensive capabilities for monitoring communications of all sorts. Thailand monitors communications from China, with listening stations in the northern part of Thailand. It monitors communications from Laos and Cambodia but the great majority of the Thai stations, that are listening into neighboring countries are focused on Burma. Many of those are tactical stations, in other words they’re small stations operated by army units or by dorchordor, Border Patrol police, or tahaan phraan, and are listening just simply to the short-range tactical communications of Tatmadaw units on the other side of the border. And there are many of those stations. So that overall, Thailand would be collecting much more tactical military communications from Burma than any other country.



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