Tunnel Construction Pictures Spark Questions
By MIN LWIN Friday, June 26, 2009


Is the North Korean involvement in advising and building underground tunnels in Burma concentrated on military-based activities, or does it also include hydropower projects which are scattered around the country?

That is one of the questions raised by Burmese civil engineers living inside and outside Burma, since photographs of a tunnel construction site were posted on news Web sites in recent weeks including the Democratic Voice of Burma, Yale Global online and The Irrawaddy.

Unsolicited photographs and video were published in recent weeks from a number of sources including the Burmese military and Burmese activists.

Some of the photographs showing tunnel construction were sent to The Irrawaddy by an organization calling itself the Peace Creation Group, an underground group in Burma.

When The Irrawaddy editors contacted members of the group, they said the photographs were taken around Naypyidaw, but they had no knowledge of what the photographs showed.

Some images appear to show civilian workers in blue-colored uniforms, other people who appear to be foreigners from Asia, Burmese military officers, and normal construction site workers. Workers with the Ministry of Electricity normally wear blue-colored uniforms.

Burmese engineers inside and outside the country noted that the military regime currently has 12 hydropower projects scheduled, including the Ye Ywa hydropower project, 31 miles southeast of Mandalay, the largest in the country.

“I am wondering whether these photos are for hydropower projects or military purposes,” wrote one civil engineer who worked on the Paunglaung hydropower project near Naypyidaw.

“As for me, I can’t distinguish which one is military or for hydropower projects,” he said. “Hydropower project tunnels are quite large, [and] are built underground [and sometimes in] mountains,” he wrote.

Burma’s directorate of military engineers, along with private construction contractors, is involved in implementing hydropower projects and underground tunnels.

Suspicions about the exact purposes of tunnel construction in Burma were heightened recently after accounts surfaced about Burmese-North Korean military cooperation in the areas of military hardware procurement and tunnel construction projects.

According to a MoU signed between Burma and North Korea which has been obtained by The Irrawaddy, Burma plans to build a military headquarter facility with a maze of underground tunnels around Naypyidaw, the remote capital.

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Folklight Wrote:
I have recently discovered this "national" treasure and enjoy very much the professionalism and attention to detail The Irrawaddy delivers to its readers. In a dark and depressing world, you are a source of truth and light. Thanks!

George Than Setkyar Heine Wrote:
The obvious answer to tunneling in Burma is for military purpose only for Than Shwe and uranium mining on the part of North Korea.
Russia is the first to know that large uranium deposits exist in the country.
North Korea needs uranium for making WMD and Than Shwe needs the same for holding the country and the world hostage as well.
Than Shwe's belief in arms and tunnels as instrumental in safeguarding his security and ill-gotten wealth is no more credible than his dream of sidelining Daw Suu and winning the upcoming farce, the 2010 elections.
Failing to comprehend people only can guarantee security and the lives of leaders, not guns nor tunnels, until today is the monk murderer's Archilles' heel.
Alienating himself from his own people is the military maniac's mother of mistakes.
Daw Suu is going global today and safe because not only the people of Burma adore and support her, but also the world citizenry as evidenced in Than Shwe's ongoing show of travesty of justice in Insein prison today.

KKK Wrote:
Than Shwe and his family members are planning to stay for the rest of their lives in those tunnels.

Maung Soe Wrote:
Thanks for pointing that out. I was wondering whether junta agents released hydropower photos to cause confusion.
There could soon be a junta press release saying that those tunnels are all hydropower related.

timothy Wrote:
The Burmese junta does not care about the people at all. Look at how they treat people during mass protests or Cyclone Nargis. So the tunnel building with billions of currency expense is definitely not for the well being of the people. No way can it be such a reason. It is definitely and reasonably for secretive military purpose, to do mass killing of people. Does it make sense?

planB Wrote:
Kudos to The Irrawaddy for standing up to the scrutiny. An indirect compliment that there are a silent majority that read its publications, obviously biased but still highlighting important facts. Letting readers have their own take is important.

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