Intelligence (May 2008)
covering burma and southeast asia
Thursday, June 20, 2024

Intelligence (May 2008)



Exiled Groups Facing Increased Pressure as Referendum Nears

Burmese opposition groups in Thailand, especially along the Mae Sot border area, say security conditions are rapidly deteriorating as the May 10 constitutional referendum nears. The offices and homes of several leaders of the Karen National Union (KNU) were raided by Thai security officers in late March. Thai intelligence has advised exiled opposition leaders to close or move their offices and homes, saying they could not guarantee their safety.

Earlier this year, exiled leaders in Mae Sot predicted that security conditions would worsen and become even more dangerous after the referendum.

An exiled Burmese leader said the junta’s allied groups, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council (KNU/KNLAPC), are working with the  Burmese government’s Military Security Affairs to destabilize opposition groups based in Mae Sot. The source claimed that some DKBA members were involved in raiding KNU offices and homes. The raid occurred two weeks after Thailand’s prime minister visited Burma to discuss closer bilateral relations.

Burmese Officials Running Scared

Aung Thaung, central USDA secretary, expects to be the next minister of Mandalay Division.
(Illustration: Harn lay / The Irrawaddy)
Several high-ranking Burmese officials are worried about their future ahead of the constitutional referendum on May 10. 

According to information obtained by The Irrawaddy, there are widespread fears among government ministers, military commanders and officials of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) that they will be fired if the draft constitution is defeated in their respective areas.

On the other hand, a handful of officials have been told that—providing the junta holds on to power—they are in line to become ministers of a state or division after the 2010 election.

Aung Thaung, the current minister of industry 1 and a central secretary of the USDA, has reportedly told his staff that he is due to be the next minister of Mandalay Division. Minister of National Planning and Economic Development Soe Thar, who is also a senior USDA member, is tipped to become the Magwe Division minister, while Kyaw Hsan, presently minister of information and a USDA central secretary, has been told he is in line to be the next minister of Sagaing Division. Thein Zaw, the current minister of Communications, Post and Telegraphs, and an executive member of the USDA, reportedly hopes to be appointed the next minister of Kachin State.

A minister of a state or division in Burma is a regarded as both a prestigious and lucrative position. State-run newspapers and broadcasters regularly report on the daily activities of high-ranking officials traveling around their respective states campaigning for “Yes” votes since the junta announced the timetable of the referendum and the general election in 2010.   

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