Archive for June 27th, 2008
By Roland Watson
June 26, 2008
We have new, disturbing, and detailed intelligence about the assistance Russia is providing Burma’s dictatorship, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), on its nuclear program and more generally its military modernization. This new information both confirms earlier intelligence that we have published, and expands what is known about the overall program.
Nuclear reactor and uranium mining
It has been widely reported that Russia is going to provide Burma a nuclear reactor, for so-called “research” purposes. We have received information that the SPDC has now purchased the 10 MW reactor. It is not new, but is reportedly in good condition. It is being dismantled, transported to Burma, and rebuilt. While we cannot confirm that it has arrived, our sources say that installation is due to be completed by December this year. (We have previously reported that North Korean technicians will assist with the construction.)
The reactor will be built at a site some ten kilometers from Kyauk Pa Toe, in Tha Beik Kyin township, approximately one hundred kilometers north of Mandalay near the Irrawaddy River.
In return for the reactor and other services, a Russian government mining company has received concessions to mine gold, titanium and uranium. There are two gold mining sites: in Kyauk Pa Toe; and in the mountains to the right of the Thazi-Shwe Nyaung railway line from Mandalay Division to Southern Shan State in the Pyin Nyaung area.
Titanium is also being mined, or derived from the same ore, at Kyauk Pa Toe.
Uranium is being mined at three locations: in the Pegu-Yoma mountain range in Pauk Kaung Township of Prome District (aka Pyi); in the Paing Ngort area in Mo Meik Township in Shan State; and at Kyauk Pa Toe.
The reactor site has been chosen because of its proximity to the Tha Beik Kyin and Mo Meik uranium mines. It is likely that the gold mining operation at the former will be used as cover, to conceal the nuclear facilities.
We have previously reported, from different sources, that the SPDC has a yellowcake mill somewhere in the Tha Beik Kyin area. Now we know the exact location (or at least enough information to find it with satellite imagery).
The reactor has been publicized as being for research purposes, meaning research on nuclear power generation. We believe that the SPDC has no real interest in generating electricity, or at best that this is a secondary consideration, and that the primary purpose is atomic weapons development. Our sources say that the SPDC expects to have full nuclear capability within ten years.
Russia is presumably supplying the reactor fuel as well. While Burma has uranium ore, and mills to convert it to yellowcake, this must be enriched to create the fuel, typically using cascades of gas centrifuges. We have received one report that the SPDC has begun a centrifuge program, at the South Nawin Dam, but this is unconfirmed. Barring this operation, the source of the fuel therefore must be Russia.
Note: Locating the reactor at Kyauk Pa Toe really only makes sense if there are plans to build an enrichment facility there. This way you would have the full industrial cycle in close proximity: mine, mill, enrichment, and reactor.
What is perhaps most disturbing about Russia’s program with the SPDC is that it is identical to the Soviet Union’s assistance that propelled North Korea to become a nuclear power. Why, with the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, is Russia still helping rogue regimes proliferate? The surface answer of course is money, in this case in the form of natural resources, but the deeper question remains. Russia is considered to be a democracy. What would the people of the country think of their leaders giving such help to the likes of the SPDC and Than Shwe?
In 1965, the Soviet Union gave North Korea a 2 MW reactor, which was upgraded in 1973 to 8 MW. It also supplied fuel through at least this period. North Korea then went on to construct a much larger reactor, and in the 1980s began weapons development. This included building separation facilities to obtain plutonium, and high explosives detonation tests. (We have received reports that the SPDC has already conducted such tests, in the Setkhya Mountains southeast of Mandalay.) At some point North Korea also began its own uranium enrichment program, to produce weapons grade material, and the U.S. confronted the country about this in 2002. This means that the North has two different sources of fissile material for weapons, reactor plutonium and enriched uranium.
The North detonated a small atomic weapon, with a yield of less than one kiloton, in October 2006, using some of its plutonium. It is now reportedly about to disclose its nuclear assets, and also destroy its plutonium producing reactor, but the sticking point has been the enriched uranium. The North appears unwilling to discuss this (and at this point to disclose its weapons cache), which means that even with the destruction of the reactor and the plutonium stockpile (for the latter the size of which is subject to serious dispute), the North would retain the ability to produce weapons with the uranium. At the moment the U.S. appears willing to accept partial disclosure, i.e., of only the plutonium.
In addition to Russia, North Korean technicians have been helping Burma with its nuclear ambitions (and other weapons programs), and we have received information that the SPDC has given the North refined uranium in return, which may be destined for the enrichment program.
This is all very disturbing, all the more so because of the apparent weakness of the Bush Administration, which has been unwilling to press the North, and which refuses even to mention Burma (its nuclear program). It took North Korea forty years before it detonated a weapon. It will likely take the SPDC only a fraction of this period. Once the Burmese junta has atomic weapons, its rule will be entrenched, and its neighbors, foremost Thailand, will be seriously endangered.
We have also previously reported that Burma has a wide variety of missile installations, including large quantities of land-based SAMs; ship-launched missiles, both surface to air and surface to surface; weapons for its MIG 29s; and even short range ballistic missiles. We have now received information that while Burma formerly bought anti-aircraft weapons from the Ukraine, in 2007 it purchased four shiploads of such weapons from Russia. We have also learned that the SPDC has multi-tube mechanized rocket launchers from North Korea. (Note: these may be for use with the ballistic missiles, and if so they confirm our earlier intelligence.)
Moreover, Burma is researching the production of guided missiles, and with Russian assistance intends to build a rocket factory in Thazi Township. This will mark the latest step in a well-recognized proliferation of Russian precision-guided munitions in the Asia Pacific region. This class of weapons includes surface to air, to attack jets, and surface to surface to attack land-based targets and also ships. Cruise missiles fall within the category. We do not know which specific PGMs the factory intends to produce, only that they will be medium range guided rockets and that production is scheduled to begin within five years.
It is clear that the SPDC is intent on developing a strong defense against an international intervention, including foreign jets, helicopters and ships. Perhaps one reason why the U.S. and the French balked at dropping relief supplies following Cyclone Nargis was the risk of missile attack on their helicopters and ships.
We have previously noted that the Burma Army is weapons-deficient. It is clear that the extensive procurement program underway with Russia, as well as China, North Korea and others, is intended to rectify this. During the era of Ne Win and the BSPP (Burma Socialist Program Party), the junta established six weapons production facilities. There are now twenty-two, and clearly more are planned.
Coupled with the materiel acquisitions is a major educational program. There are more than 5,000 State Scholars in Russia, all of whom passed their Defense Services Academy class, a nine-month program in the Russian language, and an entrance exam in their specialty. (This is an increase from the 3,000 we previously reported.) They are candidates for either a masters (2 years) or doctorate (4 years – we previously reported 3 years for this degree). They study in Moscow or St. Petersburg, in the former in a suburb at the Moscow Air Institute. There are additional State Scholars from Burma in China, North Korea, Pakistan and India.
One of the more recent groups of scholars, Batch Seven, included 1,100 DSA officers. Their majors are as follows:
250 Nuclear science
100 Tunneling science
200 Computer science
100 Aircraft construction
The students also learn other military subjects, including: tanks; maintenance; anti-aircraft training; ammunition production; fighter pilot training; naval craft construction; naval craft captaincy; and anti-terrorist training.
While it is clear that the overall modernization program will improve the SPDC’s preparedness against attack, the junta still has a significant problem with soldier morale. Many of the state scholars, who are an elite in the Tatmadaw, are not motivated and would seek asylum given the chance. Their stipends barely cover their expenses. The Russian language and their training programs are difficult. They are overworked and separated from the civilian population. Their visas prohibit them from buying air, train or long-distance bus tickets. When they return to Burma, some are used as Russian language teachers or as instructors at the SPDC’s Central Research and Training Unit, but many are sent to the front lines.
As an example, in January this year one scholar fled to the border of Finland, but was arrested by Russian intelligence agents when he used his cell phone to call his contact on the other side. There is widespread dissatisfaction at all levels within the SPDC, except perhaps the very top – although there is reportedly a split there as well, between Than Shwe and Maung Aye. While the new weapons systems improve the junta’s defense against an intervention, they still need operators. The SPDC is poised to fall, through an internal coup, and it is subject to a renewed popular uprising as well.
Acquiring a nuclear weapon would alter this equation somewhat, but really only by creating a new defense against an intervention, and this is as yet some years away, unless the SPDC acquires a warhead directly from North Korea. Still, any such development has to be prevented, which raises the question, yet again: what is the U.S. doing? Under geopolitical realism, the only concerns are national interests. On a superficial level, for the U.S. and Burma, these are limited to Chevron’s investment in Burma’s natural gas production and pipelines. A secondary interest is the concern of U.S. citizens of Burmese origin, but since this group is small it can effectively be ignored. It would seem, therefore, that all the Administration bluster notwithstanding, its only real policy objective for Burma is to protect Chevron, which corporation to bolster its case also makes large campaign donations.
The real direct national interest of the United States is to deny Burma nuclear weapons. It is not only North Korea, Iran and Syria that America (and the world) must contain. Having a nuclear-armed SPDC is an unacceptable risk. This trumps the need to assist a domestic corporation. Further, since Chevron is also a major cash source for the junta, which uses money as well as the direct transfer of natural resources to pay its weapons suppliers, it demands that the company be forced to divest.
Source: Dictator Watch & Burma Digest
Corruption continues to intensify in two-fifths of the world’s nations, nurtured by persistent poverty, political instability and crime.
In percentage terms, the number of countries perceived to be corrupt fell slightly, according to recent surveys by Transparency International, an international watchdog group. But that’s only because the sample size of its annual study has gotten larger with the addition of 17 countries.
Of the 180 countries looked at in its most recent rankings, 132 had index scores below 5, including Greece, India, Mexico, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Some 56 countries were rated below 3, a level that indicates rampant corruption, including Argentina, Pakistan and Russia.
Transparency International developed its index on a scale from 0 to 10, with the lowest number indicating the highest perception of corruption. The index is based on worldwide surveys of country specialists, business officials, human rights monitors and others.
For the most recent index, the best-scoring countries were New Zealand, Denmark and Finland, sharing an index ranking of 9.4. At the bottom of the heap, where perceptions of corruption were highest, Somalia and Myanmar are tied with an index ranking of 1.4.
Of course it’s easy to see the difference between the two ends of the spectrum. New Zealand, Denmark and Finland have wealth and stable economies and governments, and don’t stoke a lot of international controversy. Somalia and Myanmar are torn by armed conflict and political oppression.
The divide runs along economic realities. Forty percent of the countries rated below 3 are classified by the World Bank as low income. It doesn’t help if the governments are weak or engaged in a struggle for power.
“Countries torn apart by conflict pay a huge toll in their capacity to govern,” says Huguette Labelle, chairman of Transparency International. “With public institutions crippled or nonexistent, mercenary individuals help themselves to public resources, and corruption thrives.”
Myanmar, also known as Burma, probably wins the prize for worst public relations of the year. Last fall, the military-led government cracked down on protesting monks, killing a few in the riots that broke out as the government rounded up protesters. Internet access was blocked to prevent news from getting out to the outside world.
To top it off, in May the Burmese government hindered international relief efforts after the most damaging cyclone in its history, which killed an estimated 130,000. America’s first lady, Laura Bush, has led an active campaign against the military junta, calling on international bodies to pressure it to move toward democracy.
Somalia has its own problems, not least of which is persistent and growing piracy in the waters off its shores. There have been more than two dozen piracy attacks reported in the Gulf of Aden since the beginning of this year (see ” Sea Piracy’s Bloody Growth”).
The double whammy of weak government and abundant natural resources also stokes corruption, particularly where personal greed can run rampant without fear of recrimination. In Equatorial Guinea, 10th on the Transparency International list, 30% of the profits from recently discovered offshore oil fields goes straight into the state officials’ pockets.
Nearby in the Democratic Republic of Congo, tied for 10th with Guinea, government officials demand payments from mining companies. The country has abundant reserves of some of the most sought-after commodities: copper, gold, uranium and coltan.
There is hope, however. Several African countries showed marked improvement in their rankings over one year, including Seychelles (to 57 from 63), South Africa (to 43 from 51) and Swaziland (to 84 from 121). Transparency International said the jumps mean genuine reform efforts can help combat perceptions of corruption.
Outside Africa, many countries that improved over the year are in Eastern Europe: Croatia (to 64 from 69), the Czech Republic (to 41 from 46), Macedonia (to 84 from 105) and Romania (to 69 from 84). Italy went to 41 from 45.
“The concentration of gainers in Southeast and Eastern Europe testifies to the galvanizing effect of the European Union accession process on the fight against corruption,” says Transparency International.
No. 1 Myanmar (Burma) (tie)
The Burmese government drew widespread international criticism after it hindered international relief efforts following a deadly cyclone. The government, which tied for the top spot in perceived corruption, doesn’t tolerate dissent. Last year, the military regime in this Southeast Asian nation brutally suppressed protests by democracy activists and monks.
No. 1 Somalia (tie)
The East African country suffers from a weak national government riddled with crooked officials. Somalia, with its many poor people and 1,880-mile coast, is also a breeding ground for piracy. The bandits look for easy prey in the crowded shipping routes of the Red Sea.
No. 3 Iraq
With plenty of American money pouring in and the Iraqi public sector struggling to rebuild itself, corruption is rife in this Middle Eastern country. “Corruption and smuggling have diverted government revenues potentially available for rebuilding efforts,” said the U.S. Government Accountability Office in a report last year. Even more worrisome is that some of the money is being used to fund the Iraq insurgency. (See “The Energy Underworld.”)
No. 4 Haiti
Last month, a prominent Haitian banker railed against corrupt legislators after his bid for prime minister was thwarted. “At the very beginning of the process, I was confronted with the forces of corruption,” he told reporters. It’s a fair excuse in this Caribbean nation, which ranked fourth in perceived corruption. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere hopes to make progress under the democratically elected president and parliament that came into power in 2006.
No. 5 Uzbekistan (tie)
Houston oil services company Baker Hughes pleaded guilty last year to making improper payments to get jobs in a number of countries. One was Uzbekistan. There’s a lot more going on in this former Soviet republic. The country was ranked the fifth worst at having honest officials. Sadly, it also finished at the bottom of a recent ranking of the world’s happiest countries. (See “Chasing Happiness.”)
No. 5 Tonga (tie)
This archipelago nation in the South Pacific is the only country in the area ruled by a monarchy. The government, which relies heavily on foreign aid, hopes to clean things up. It appointed its first anti-corruption commissioner this month.
No. 7 Sudan (tie)
Sudan tied for the seventh most corrupt nation in the world, and that’s not even its most pressing problem. A military conflict that erupted in Western Sudan in 2003 has tormented citizens. The CIA estimates the conflict has displaced nearly 2 million people and caused between 200,000 and 400,000 deaths.
No. 7 Chad (tie)
Although a three-decade civil war ended in 1990, unrest has been common since then. Earlier this year, rebels attempted to take the country’s capital. In one of Chad’s more egregious examples of government unscrupulousness, funds that were supposed to have been used to feed the hungry were diverted to buy arms. (See “Chad’s President Faces Opposition.”)
No. 7 Afghanistan (tie)
Despite the toppling of the Taliban and the installation of the its first democratically elected president, the country is struggling to make progress on corruption. Unfortunately, it is also one of the world’s most dangerous destinations. Terrorists frequently attack political leaders, military personnel and Westerners.
No. 10 Laos (tie)
The Southeast Asian nation of Laos has been gradually returning to private enterprise from communism since the 1980s, but there’s been some bumps. Corruption remains a costly problem. One bright spot: The picturesque country is benefiting from the ecotourism boom. (See “Top Spots For Southeast Asian Ecotourism.”)
26 June 2008
Charities have been calling for more donations to help people suffering in the wake of the Burma cyclone on May 2nd.
The fundraising target for Christian Aid is £2 million, of which the charity has so far raised £1.7 million
Robin Greenwood, Christian Aid’s head of Asia and Middle East division, said that the charity was grateful for the donations received so far and revealed that so far they had been able to deliver aid to 200,000 people through local partners.
He added: “We are asking for people’s support now because there is a need for more funds for our partners to continue to do their vital relief and rehabilitation work.”
The Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella group representing a number of aid charities, has said there are more than a million survivors in Burma who still need help.
Steve Goudswaard, manager of World Vision’s response to Cyclone Nargis, said that the group needed more access to the area in order to assist those who need it.
The Burma government has recently hit out at aid workers and foreign governments whom they claim have exaggerated the scale of the disaster.
© Adfero Ltd
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma
Jun 26, 2008 (DVB)–U Ohn Kyaing, chair of the National League for Democracy’s Cyclone Relief Committee says the party is currently focusing its efforts on roofing houses and cleaning ponds for drinking water for cyclone survivors.
U Ohn Kyaing said the NLD planned to continue its work on relief efforts in the Irrawaddy delta.
“In the first phase, we plan to clean 20 ponds in villages inside Latputta township within two weeks,” he said.
“Latputta MPs-elect Dr Aye Kyu and U Kyi Win, NLD organising committee members and party members from villages will cooperate in this effort.”
With the help and cooperation of local NLD members, the relief committee is continuing its aid operations for cyclone victims in various areas of Bogalay, Mawlamyaing Kyne, Latputta and Ngaputaw townships.
“In villages in the lower part of Mawlamyaing Kyne, which were severely affected by the cyclone, we provided people with materials for shelter, money and clothes on Monday,” said the chairperson.
“In Bogalay, township organising committee members and NLD supporters are taking care of distributing relief supplies to locals in different villages,” he went on.
“For Bogalay and Ngaputaw, we plan to provide each village with 200 canvas sheets for roofing,” he continued.
The NLD formed the Cyclone Relief Committee on 8 May after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma. The Committee has been collecting donations and has taken an active role in relief operations since then.
U Ohn Kyaing told DVB that aid distribution to cyclone survivors should continue for at least another six month and so the committee was looking for further financial and material donations.
“We want to ask private donors to support us more. We are a political organisation so, even though we want to help those who are in desperate need, we have limited relief supplies,” U Ohn Kyaing said.
“Cyclone survivors still need aid so please help us to save their lives,” he implored.
Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet
Bernama, Malaysia - Jun 27, 2008
By D. Arul Rajoo SATSAN, (Delta Irrawaddy, Myanmar), June 27 (Bernama) — The Myanmar Government has refuted claims that it was not doing enough to help …
Counterterrorism Blog, NJ - Jun 27, 2008
… were also behind a 1983 attempt to kill South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, who was scheduled to visit a memorial in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar. …
AsiaNews.it, Italy -
The news comes from the agency Democratic Voice of Burma. But rather than having educational purposes, the initiative seems to be motivated by a clear …
… the Myanmar disaster was a “historic moment for ASEAN” to show it could lead an international humanitarian effort. He said many in the former Burma’s …
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway -
The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus welcomed the creation of the EPCP in a statement and said it believed effective cooperation between the two …
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand -
“If India and Myanmar [Burma] continue work and do not respond to our letter, Bangladesh will resume its activities as well.” Industry analysts doubt if …
AllAfrica.com, Washington -
Earlier in the year, violent protests broke out in Burma or Myanmar as its leaders prefer to call it. Here, expressing dissenting views of any kind amounts …
Times and Transcript, Canada -
George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt are helping launch an ad campaign to raise awareness for Myanmar (formerly Burma), which was devastated by a …
Independent Online, South Africa -
Kyoto, Japan – The Group of Eight foreign ministers called on Friday on Myanmar/Burma to lift all remaining restrictions on cyclone aid and to free …
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand -
“In order to improve the current situation, it is also important for us, the G8, to apply not only pressure but if Myanmar [Burma] side shows any forward …
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway -
Jun 26, 2008 (DVB)–On the pretext of helping cyclone-affected farmers resume their rice cultivation, authorities have been collecting money and paddy in …
The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand -
Responding to a question on the humanitarian aid effort, Ban said: “I think the Myanmar [Burma] authorities are moving toward the right direction to allow …
Radio Australia, Australia -
… lack control of the territory, of course illegal activity tends to spread, and this has been the case in Afghanistan, in Colombia, in Myanmar [Burma]. …
The ACU comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Burma (officially known as Myanmar), Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is an arrangement for settling …
Forbes, NY -
Myanmar, also known as Burma, probably wins the prize for worst public relations of the year. Last fall, the military-led government cracked down on …
GulfNews, United Arab Emirates -
… recognise NGOs’ right to interfere in some countries to save victims, without the government’s consent, and this is not the case with Burma (Myanmar). …
Ecorazzi, NY -
Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Matt Damon have lent their star power to an advertising campaign aimed at boosting aid for Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), …
… also behind a 1983 attempt on the life of South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, who was scheduled to visit a memorial in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar). …
The Associated Press -
In Myanmar, also known as Burma, it increased 29 percent. The UN said most of the gains were in southern Shan state, where rebels seeking autonomy from …
The Epoch Times Ireland, Ireland -
Survivors of Cyclone Nargis are seen in a makeshift shelter in Tontay, 15 miles from Yangon, Burma, on June 17, 2008.(Khin Maung Win/AFP/Getty Images) KYOTO …
STA – Slovenska Tiskovna Agencija, Slovenia -
Touching on Myanmar, Rupel expressed solidarity with the victims of Nargis cyclone and noted that the state of emergency was still far from over, …
Jewish Exponent, PA -
When the Pei family, refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma), arrived at their new residence in South Philadelphia on March 5, they discovered a …
Philippine Information Agency, Philippines -
The Roundtable is part of ASEAN’s efforts to help Myanmar deal with the impact of Cyclone Nargis. The Secretary-General of ASEAN and Chairman of the HTF, …
United Press International, Asia, China -
By Khin Ohmar Bangkok, Thailand — The patience of the international community appears to be wearing thin as the delivery of aid to cyclone victims in Burma …
RedOrbit, TX -
Mashangva bought his first guitar at age 15 from a trader who ferried it on his shoulder across the border from what was then Burma on a buffalo caravan. …
Post Chronicle -
by Staff An international aid organization providing telecom support says it has been forced to leave cyclone-ravaged Myanmar. Members of Telecoms Sans …
Bernama, Malaysia -
The duo, accompanied by Myanmar’s Deputy Foreign Minister U Kyaw Thu Thu who chairs the Asean Humanitarian Task Force, took a 40-minute helicopter ride from …
AsiaNews.it, Italy -
Washington (AsiaNews) – The solution to Myanmar’s crisis goes through China and India, Burmese prime minister in exile Sein Win told The Irrawaddy newspaper …
Reuters India, India -
Manekshaw fought for the British forces in the Second World War in Burma (now Myanmar), where he survived serious injuries while battling Japanese forces as …
International Herald Tribune, France -
He served in Myanmar, then called Burma, during World War II. He became chief of the Indian army in 1969 and went on to lead troops to victory in a 1971 war …
Thaindian.com, Thailand -
He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award, and won the Military Cross for his role in Myanmar, then Burma, during the Second …
Hindustan Times, India -
… Military Academy, Dehradun, in 1934. He saw action in Burma, now Myanmar, during the Second World War and became the Indian Army chief on June 7, 1969.
Merinews, India -
Nearly two months after Cyclone Nargis devastated the southwestern coastal regions of Myanmar, more than half the survivors are starving, a post-cyclone …
Mizzima.com, India -
Juli Niebuhr, the MSF spokesperson in Burma told Mizzima that almost all the wells in every village they had examined were contaminated. …
Toronto Star, Canada -
UN agencies and private humanitarian groups agree a feared second wave of post-cyclone casualties did not take place in Burma, also known as Myanmar. …
Radio Australia, Australia -
The editor of the Myanmar Tribune has been arrested and his magazine closed after he travelled to the cyclone-hit Irrawaddy Delta to help bury people killed …
Expressindia.com, India -
The report which also appeared on another portal, Indo Burma News, said that town leaders welcomed the move as they would receive five to six hours of .