Burma Must Make Clear its Nuclear Ambitions
By AUNG ZAW Monday, August 3, 2009

(Page 2 of 3)

During discussions of a chapter of the draft constitution relating to the defense of the Union of Burma, he and several professional colleagues made an interesting suggestion.

The chapter under discussion on March 3, 2005, covered seven key points on national defense, including chemical and biological weapons.

The professor suggested an addition to the chapter to cover the “prevention of terrorist acts and pressures” in enacting laws regarding “the defense of the Union of Myanmar and of its every part, and to prepare a defense program.”

That program would potentially include “conventional arms, ammunition and explosives, and non-conventional sophisticated strategic arms” as well as “nuclear energy, nuclear fuel and radiation, and mineral resources that produce them, highly classified materials, objects, areas, technologies, researches and information and special security issues, accidents concerning the persons whose work involves highly classified materials, objects, areas, technologies, researches and information, and compensation and insurance coverage for them in case of accidents,” according to a report in state-run The New Light of Myanmar. 

Aung Toe, the chairman of the National Convention Convening Work Committee, replied by saying that such a program—particularly a nuclear one—would incur international criticism if it was included in the chapter on defense and security.

Aung Toe’s prediction was not wrong. Now some international press reports suggest that Burma is on the way to possessing a nuclear bomb.

The lack of transparency in Burma’s nuclear program and the regime’s repressive nature only increased the suspicions of international critics and dissident groups.

Aside from Thein Oo Po Saw, Burma’s nuclear project has been developed by Minister U Thaung, who signed the reactor agreement in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s atomic agency. U Thaung is known to be close to junta chief Snr Gen Than Shwe and his deputy, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye.

U Thaung has in-depth knowledge of Burma’s mining and uranium sectors and resigned his army post to become director general of the country’s Department of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration in the 1980s.

U Thaung visited Moscow several times in the past in pursuit of the nuclear deal. He also organized students and army officers to participate in nuclear orientation and training in Moscow. In 2006, nuclear physics departments were established in the universities of Rangoon and Mandalay, with enrolment controlled by the regime.

In 2006, Russia’s ambassador to Burma, Dr Mikhail M Mgeladze, confirmed that about 2,000 Burmese students had been admitted to 11 academic institutions in Russia, under a bilateral agreement, and about 500 had returned to Burma with bachelor, master’s or doctorate degrees.

Russian companies are also actively involved in the search for uranium in upper Burma.
In the early 2000s, the regime confirmed publicly that uranium deposits had been found in several areas: Magwe, Taungdwingyi, Kyaukphygon and Paongpyin in Mogok, and Kyauksin and in southern Tenasserim Division.

The Russian companies Zarubezneft, Itera, Kalmykia and the state-owned enterprise Tyazhpromexport have been involved in oil and gas exploration and the establishment of a plant to produce cast iron in Shan State. Tyazhpromexport’s investment alone is worth about US $150 million.

Aside from Russia, Burma’s renewed diplomatic relations and secret military ties with North Korea no doubt heightened suspicions. Washington has repeatedly warned of technology transfer between the two nations.

In April 2007, a North Korean freighter, the Kang Nam I, docked at Thilawa port, 30km south of Rangoon. Interestingly, Burmese officials said the ship, the first to visit Burma since the restoration of diplomatic relations, sought shelter from a storm. Two local reporters working for a Japanese news agency were briefly detained and turned back when they went to the port to investigate.

The Kang Nam I headed for Burma again recently, but turned back after being shadowed by a US destroyer in the harsh light of international attention.

The April 2007 incident wasn’t the first time a North Korean ship reported running into trouble in Burmese waters—by a strange coincidence, the North Korean cargo vessel M V Bong Hoafan sought shelter from a storm and anchored at a Burmese port in November 2006. The regime reported that an on-board inspection had “found no suspicious material or military equipment.”

Indeed, to skeptics, the go-ahead for the nuclear reactor project, the arrival of North Korean ships and shady military ties (The Irrawaddy exposed one particular trip made to Pyonyang by Gen Shwe Mann in November in 2008 with exclusive photos) are new developments.

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pLan B Wrote:
Mike Lewis,

Your candor is commendable. As you know, the SPDC has repeatedly proven the West wrong on their present stop at nothing approach to survival and control.

With full engagement with North Korea now at hand, one can easily extrapolate wisely that the next step even though requiring much more sophisticated tech and equipment cannot be that hard to realize even under the nose of ASEAN and the west. Examples abound.

A recent well_known case of radioactive material being pushed around for the best $$ aside with NK now both can rely on each other to be more defiant.

Yes no hard evidence, therefore should not be treated as such.

Trusting the Russian and North Korea to develop the technology in Burma?

I would rather have the West help the SPDC if their ambition is to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

Surely a good point to start engagement. "Developing energy for the Burmese need".
Everybody comes out looking good. Maybe the SPDC will shed North Korea's terrible influence.

pLan B Wrote:
A very good step by step approach from Eric Johnston here:

plan B Wrote:
Ko Aung Zaw,

Fair summation without much prejudice.
But have you considered the why, what, how and when of this "ambition"?

WHAT is exactly SPDC nuclear ambition?
A lot of nonsense have been posted here that "muddy the water."

Meanwhile, the SPDC gets even closer to N Korea--an ominous warning, indeed.

WHY and HOW of this ambition?

A very important critical even analysis is in order but will it be again disrupted by all these hate SPDC opinionated?

WHEN does SPDC intend to reveal the info?
Given the sentiment of SPDC cannot do anything right, enough ever attitude here probably never.

3 out 4 against your article endeavor so far. A grim reality indeed.

planB Wrote:
Salai Biak,

Good point 1&2.

Pt 3 the crying wolves attempt now. As you know the don't wish for something you do not want saying.

Pt4 & 5

These exile organizations have become nothing more than a shell of their former selves.
I will really like Turnell and his ilk to see what they do with their $$.

Are they really helping the Burmese or just themselves? Good for them if they follow Ayatollah Khomeini's example.

mike leiws Wrote:
Clutching at straws journalism

Pwa Gyi Wrote:
According to the article, no clear evidence exists that can reflect that the nuclear weapons or WMD are on the way to production.

Thus, it is obviously a clear speculation and I wonder why such an issue of no worth is put on The Irrawaddy site.

It is more likely a not-so-smart ploy made up by so-called exile gourps, those have made and are trying to make a lot of money by the name of "For the people of Burma" from abroad, by pointing the fingers at the current junta.

They seem to be day-dreaming that their main donors from the US and EU will invade Burma, like Iraq and Afaganistan, which is the only way they might get into power in Burma (under the name democratization in Burma) for which they have dreamt and waited for about 20 years.

Sorry guys ! It is such a cheap as well as a cheating attempt.

Salai Biak Wrote:
(1)the West is reluctant to accept the rise of Asian power. US, EU power are already declining. That's why Obama is turning to SE Asia which Bush abandoned. We are now living in the Asian century, whether the West likes it or not.

(2)Why is the West worrying about Burma's (or any other country's) nuclear issues while the UK, for example, owns 500 nuclear weapons?

(3)Burma is not pursuing nuclear weapons. It's just more propaganda from exile groups. The US & UK should not make another mistake like they did in Iraq. Burmese exile groups should stop here if they really love their country.

(4)NCGUB is asking for more donations in Jakarta in the name of Burmese people. I'm so sad to see this political deadlock.

(5)My proposal: except ethnic groups(outside the country), I'd be very grateful to see exiled groups (NCGUB, NCUB & related groups) find a way to enter the country, even contest the 2010 elections. This way, you can help resolve ethnic issues. It'll be good for the country & people. Otherwise, don't try to make friends with us.

nono Wrote:
The Irrawaddy is one of the best opposition- supporting newsletters ever and is the good news for all Burmese people but I know it is a bad news letter for the SPDC supporters and the dictators. Don't be angry with the Irrawaddy, if any one want to say that the SPDC are good; there is Myanmar Alin.

Okkar Wrote:
Irrawaddy, please don't edit my post without knowing what I intend to write. You may think you are correct gramar and spelling mistakes, but instead you change the content of my comments entirely. Have you no shame? Is this the sort of tactics used by opposition supporters claiming to be righteous? Shame on you!

(Eds: Changes to submitted comments are made only to make them intelligible. Correcting incorrect and unintelligible English on an English language Web site is NOT censorship.)

Maung Myo Chit Wrote:
Some territories controlled by past Myanmar kings are now in neighboring countries. These territories rightfully belong to Myanmar and to reclaim them, Myanmar needs nuclear weapons.

Another purpose is to wipe rebel cities like Yangon and Mandalay off the face of the earth if they become too troublesome to control from Naypyidaw.

mike lewis Wrote:
Need a lot more evidence to prove this. Two defectors isn't concrete enough. Having nuclear reactors doesn't mean nuclear weapons. Bit of overreaction, I think!

okkar Wrote:
It seems defectors are trying hard to persuade Western nations to invade Myanmar under the pretext of WMD, like they have done in Iraq. However, these people, the so-called exiled Burmese, are so out of touch with reality. They still think that the US and UK still wield the military might they once did before the Iraq and Afghan wars. Both the US and UK are in no position to start another war, not with a Democrat President in the White house and while US armed forces are fighting two simultaneous wars. The UK doesn't look too good either. The Brown government is on its way out, while a third of UK armed forces are unfit/undeployable to a theatre operation. Not to mention the economic climate and depression that is sweeping through both countries. Neither the US nor UK are in a position to invade Myanmar even if they want to.

Isn't it time for the opposition to stop playing the same cards other people have played before? I mean, the world isn't gonna get fooled again about WMD!

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