Junta’s Dream is the World’s Nightmare
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Junta’s Dream is the World’s Nightmare


By AUNG ZAW JULY, 2010 - VOLUME 18 NO.7


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The international community needs to take the threat of a nuclear-armed Burma seriously

For decades, Burma’s ruling regime has been regarded primarily as a menace to its own people. But with recent reports confirming long-held suspicions that the junta aspires to establish Burma as Southeast Asia’s first nuclear-armed state, there is now a very real danger that it is emerging as a threat to the rest of the region.

At the moment, the paranoid generals in Naypyidaw are far from realizing their dream of developing the ultimate deterrent to foreign invasion. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the regime’s determination to acquire some sort of nuclear weapon, no matter how primitive, with which to ward off any threat from countries it regards as hostile to its survival.

Judging from the muted response to recent revelations contained in a report by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), however, it seems that many remain unconvinced that the regime’s nuclear ambitions represent a credible threat. Of course, it makes sense to proceed with caution before jumping to any conclusions; but it would also be a mistake to wait until it is too late to deal with the eventuality of a nuclear-armed Burma.

The DVB report is hardly the first to present evidence suggesting that the regime’s military ambitions now extend beyond its traditional goal of crushing perceived threats from within, but it is certainly the most thorough. Based largely on the testimony of ex-Maj Sai Thein Win, a Burmese army defector and weapons expert who smuggled out numerous photographs and documents to back up his accusations, the report leaves little room for doubt about the junta’s intentions. According to Robert Kelley, the nuclear scientist and former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency who authored the report for DVB, the evidence “leads to only one conclusion: this technology is only for nuclear weapons and not civilian use or nuclear power.”

But even before Sai Thein Win came forward, there was good reason to suspect that the junta was not satisfied with its 400,000-man army and impressive armory of weapons for suppressing the country’s dwindling array of ethnic insurgencies. Indeed, for the past decade at least, it has sought to strengthen its military might in ways that would serve to neutralize external as well as internal challenges to its hold on power.

According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, the regime first purchased low-altitude surface-to-air missile systems from Bulgaria and short-range ballistic missile air defense systems from Russia in 2001. The following year, according to Burmese defense analyst Maung Aung Myoe in his 2009 book, “Building the Tatmadaw,” it acquired 36D6 radar from Ukraine, designed to detect air targets at low, medium and high altitudes, and to perform friend-or-foe identification.

Some analysts attribute the regime’s sudden interest in upgrading its arsenal to a series of border skirmishes with Thai forces in 2001-02, when Thailand reportedly deployed Suppression of Enemy Air Defense Systems (SEADS) before sending its F-16 jet fighters into border air space, severely disrupting communication lines between the Burmese army’s command centers and frontline troops.

It is interesting to note how soon the regime’s quest for ever more sophisticated weaponry took it in the direction of North Korea. According to Maung Aung Myoe, the Burmese generals began secret talks with the reclusive Communist regime to buy Hwasong (Scud-type) missiles as early as 2003. Although it remains unclear if the regime ever actually acquired these missiles, military analysts note that Burma has received a number of suspicious shipments from North Korean vessels over the past few years.

This North Korean connection appears to have done more than just provide the junta with another arms supplier. Increasingly, Naypyidaw seems to be considering Pyongyang’s brand of belligerent diplomacy as the basis for its foreign policy, possibly as a backup plan to ensure its survival if the upcoming election and transition to “disciplined democracy” fail to silence its Western critics.

If Burma does take this route, it would certainly present a real dilemma for the West. In the past, the regime has attempted to neutralize its critics by insisting that they choose between supporting the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi or promoting the well-being of the masses by providing aid and lifting sanctions. In the future, the choice could become even starker: forget Suu Kyi, or learn to live with a nuclear-armed Burma.

Some have argued that the West bears some responsibility for pushing the regime into the arms of North Korea.



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COMMENTS (11)
 
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Nyunt Shwe Wrote:
20/07/2010
First of all, I don't believe this accusation at all. I don't think the Buddhist generals of Myanmar are that stupid to destroy one's neighbour.
Do they like to use those weapon in domestic affairs, or fighting against ethnic insurgencies? No way. Russian physicist Sakharov said, "A thermonuclear war cannot be considered a continuation of politics by other means. It would be a means of universal suicide." Even absolute nuclear weapons, if ever use in civil war or border war, the destruction won't limit only to the enemy, but both will be victims.
Secondly, I don't think our neighbour, specifically Thailand. as according to a few journalists and historians a sworn enemy of Myanmar, is that interested to have a war between the two countries, but it is more interested in economic exploitation.
Thirdly, as Aung Zaw said, N. Korea and Myanmar are different and no regime would buy that image.
Fourthly, Aung Zaw believe it or not, this upcoming election is the starting point of change.

plan B Wrote:
20/07/2010
Ko Aung Zaw
Your absolute refusal to link the SPDC association with DPRK is 2º to the west relentless useless careless approach is understandable.
If you ever even suggest a casual connection than Daw Aung San Suu Ki contribution to this Present Myanmar Quagmire will then become obvious.
Again here is the proof.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6479/is_3_30/ai_n31178685/pg_4/?tag=content;col1
I agree that DPRK is the elephant now in the room.
Just because Myanmar has its own unique culture and heritage does not protect it from becoming DPRK like in:
1)Control
2)Manipulation
3) Anti-west.
None of these characteristics bode well for the citizenry.
Even worse, the DPRK now has the SPDC with vast resources in anything and everything that they can freely barter for arms.
To be the perfect "trouble maker".
The west is 2nd most responsible.
"Stupid is stupid does" describes well Thailand's approach.
Remember, the SPDC does not make the same mistake twice. Proven beyond doubt.

Kyaw Wrote:
18/07/2010
I fully support Aung Zaw and Keoek.
Burma was a prosperous country with the best potential to catch up the developed world before the 1940's and 1950's.
Look at the political system at that time. We will find that the peoples' rights were much more respected than today, nobody was sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for political activities, no hard labor, no minority discrimination. If you want to be prosperous and happy, at least you should go with a similar system of that time. The military today is a menace and will lead to the doom of Burma and Burman if we can not remove them in time.

Keoek Wrote:
16/07/2010
A bandit, especially a bandit institution, is not interested in the welfare of others. Rape of peoples, rape of resources continues for power and profit. The appetite for more grows with the getting; the sense of responsibility and accountability diminish. The country and the region have had firm witness over many decades of what to expect. ASEAN beware!

PB Publico Wrote:
16/07/2010
Dear Irrawaddy,

I think it is your right as well as responsibility not to print this game of name calling and racial abominations.

Calling the public enemy by some name(s) is bad manner, though perhaps allowable. For, how else can you respond to a big (responsible) man who does every thing possible to harass you and trample on your freedom.

But in these columns, we all have equal opportunities to freely express our thoughts; no one has more right than any other. Are we so childish as to engage in abusive manners when in disagreement?

An individual in a minority group is just as large or small as other people see him to be, not as made out by those people.
So please, Irrawaddy, kindly weed out this game of name calling and racial abominations for the good of your readers!

Aung Zaw is just as good as, if not inferior or superor to, any other, or any one writing comments in these columns.

We are grateful that we have this precious opportunity that is impossible inside Burma.

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
16/07/2010
Dear Tinkerbell, We did not say 'ethnic minority' ; we said minority, meaning a tiny number, motley bunch of holier-than-thou Bamars, with a little knowledge of politics. We love the so-called ethnic minorities. They are simple, honest, hardworking, spiritual, traditional people; far more beautiful than holier-than-thou republican, pseudo-populist (self-styled) Bamars and some ethnic disintegrationists.


Timothy Wrote:
15/07/2010
I fully agree with Aung Zaw`s explanation of Burma's future. I'd like to add a few important facts to this end. The Junta is planning to introduce civilian-disguised military rule brought in by an election.
We can see how much the Junta can fool people in and outside of Burma. Political parties were formed. Some international think tanks suggest people in Burma take any chance given by this election now and increase the chances later years. The Junta fooled the players several times in the past. They will logically win the match again and by this time next year, we will see the rubber-stamped parliament of militay-ruled Burma. It will be recognized by the UN and leading nations of the world. If the junta get their way, within 2 or 3 decades they will have armed themselves with nuclear armaments. It will be a second North Korea. My logic is the Junta will win the election provided divisions among the Burmese peoples continue at this rate. They all should boycott the election.

tocharian Wrote:
15/07/2010
Although I think the Burmese Army is still a long way off from achieving nuclear strike capabilities (first of all, making enough bomb-grade enriched uranium is not that easy), I do agree with the general geo-political content of this article by Mr. Aung Zaw. I don't understand why some people below are so furiously attacking him. Who is the pervert here: Aung Zaw or the people who think any criticism about the ambitions of the military junta is anti-Burmese or "neo-colonialist" (unless you belong to a so called "ethnic minority" in Burma, you are not allowed to be pro-West?). Anyway where do many of the Karen and other political refugees from Burma end up going? To one of these neo-colonialist countries: US, UK, Canada, Norway etc. I sometimes wonder whether some people in Burma deserve the government they have (maybe they profit from the present situation?)

Tinkerbell Wrote:
14/07/2010
While I fully agree with you that Aung Zaw has in all probability sold his soul to Satan, I must strongly object to your characterization of him as a “minority pseudo-intelligent pervert.” He is most certainly NOT a member of any minority. Therefore, in future, please refer to him a "BURMAN pseudo-intelligent pervert".

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
13/07/2010
What a pathetic article, entitled: "Junta’s Dream is the World’s Nightmare" to suggest that a basket case country like Burma can pose a threat to the world!
The author is selling his soul to the Devil, playing to the gallery of neo-colonialists, to keep his body and soul together.
We must eliminate such treasonous, stupid, heinous anti-Burma mindset. Shameful upstarts!
The eal problem of Burma is these minority pseudo-intelligent perverts harming their own country of origin, being blind to the machinations and objectives of neo-imperialists.
They suck!

Venus Wrote:
12/07/2010
For whom this nuclear ambition bell tolls? Who are the focus group enemies? No Left wing. No Communism. Your article inspires a strong sense of Neo-Cold War, the Democratic Wing versus Adversarial Regime’s Immutable Realism as the only contemporary wings I can realize.

I have read “Thailand - Neither Friend Nor Foe," written by Mg Aung Myo, but not the updated ones. I'd like to read both his books and the one The Irrawaddy referred to in the previous articles, the Foreign Affairs, 3rd worse man.
It is good if The Irrawaddy gives rooms for us Q & A session in the online forum for certain issues.

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