Monday, April 24, 2006

Burmese spy reveals MI’s dirty deeds

Old Article from the Irrawaddy
Sourced: Burma IT Net

April 24, 2006: A Burmese spy, now in hiding in a secret location, spoke exclusively to The Irrawaddy about how Burma’s newly formed military intelligence service struggles to reach the sinister standards set by jailed intelligence chief Gen Khin Nyunt.

Kyaw Myint Myo, aka Myo Myint, said a major failing of the new intelligence service has been its recruitment of inexperienced officials with no idea how intelligence structures work to head departments.

New recruits, according to Kyaw Myint Myo, have received intensive training, but it takes time to build and effectively run an intensive intelligence network, especially the Military Affairs Security. Previously, Burma’s military leaders depended heavily on its secret police units to monitor and intimidate the movement of its civilian population, dissidents at home and abroad, foreign missions, and its own government officials and cabinet ministers.

As MAS has lost some of its clout with the regime, said Kyaw Myint Myo, power and authority now reside with Special Branch officers working for the Ministry of Home Affairs. He says Special Branch officers have more experience handling security and political affairs than the new intelligence officers.

Kyaw Myint Myo was assigned to infiltrate the offices of some powerful government ministers working for the Burmese regime.

Kyaw Myint Myo, 33, has insider knowledge of how the regime’s spy network operated-since 1993, he worked for the counter-intelligence department’s special unit # 1. He told The Irrawaddy that he reported directly to Lt-Col Ne Lin, his boss. His previous commanders were Col Khin Aung and Col San Pwint, both now in prison serving long sentences.

Ranked as an army sergeant, Kyaw Myint Myo admitted his latest spy missions included monitoring Karen rebels and the armed student group All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, based along the Thai-Burmese border.

Speaking from a secret location, Kyaw Myint Myo expressed fear for his safety and his need to resettle in a third country. When asked if he was afraid of being captured by Burmese dissident groups, he said: “No, but I am worried about Burmese officials (who can come and take me back).”

The former secret agent said his personal experience with the regime was not good, as his parents and family members were once interrogated and briefly detained by officials when he had “disappeared” during “a secret mission.” “I was afraid to make contact after the purge [in 2004],” he said.

In October 2004, the Burmese military government arrested military intelligence chief Gen Khin Nyunt and dismantled the once all-powerful National Intelligence Bureau and Office of the Chief of Military Intelligence, or OCMI. Analysts believed the purge was a result of a power struggle between Khin Nyunt and army hardliners.

Following the purge, Khin Nyunt and several of his high ranking officials were arrested and put on trial. Only two senior officials, Maj-Gen Kyaw Win, deputy head of OCMI, and Brig-Gen Kyaw Thein, escaped the crackdown, but quickly retired.

The purge not only sent shockwaves throughout the civilian population in Burma, but had a huge effect among army officers and soldiers, who previously had believed the armed forces were united and in harmony. In early 2006, Major Aung Lin Htut, an intelligence officer who worked at the Burmese embassy in Washington, sought political asylum out of fear for his safety if he or his family returned home.

Kyaw Myint Myo claims he was lucky to escape punishment for his intelligence work under the disposed Khin Nyunt.

Gen Myint Swe, former Rangoon Division Commander with little intelligence background but a close ally of Snr-Gen Than Shwe, heads up the newly formed MAS. Kyaw Myint Myo says Myint Swe is ignorant about what is happening in Burma.

“The government has no idea who is behind the bombing in May [2004].” Three major explosions rocked Rangoon shopping malls last year, killing several people, and the regime wasted little time in pointing the finger at exiled opposition groups.

Kyaw Myint Myo says many bomb explosions in Rangoon were planted by army and intelligence groups. “It’s just to scare civilians and to alert the army.” He added that when he was with the OCMI, he and his colleagues sometimes received information that army factions were behind the bombings. He said it is impossible for insurgents to enter downtown Rangoon. “We have large security networks involving police, army, intelligence groups and township-level ruling officials and informants [to secure Rangoon].”

Kyaw Myint Myo was assigned to infiltrate the offices of some powerful government ministers working for the Burmese regime, and said he gathered information on some ministers and high ranking officials known to be corrupt and involved in several illegal activities, including having several mistresses. “We have files on ministers, officials and businessmen,” he boasted.

As an undercover agent, Kyaw Myint Myo was once ordered to work at the Ministry of Agriculture. His mission was to collect data on possible scandals involving Lt-Gen Myint Aung, former minister for agriculture and irrigation. The minister was later sacked.

It is widely believed that Khin Nyunt’s intelligence service had collected information on numerous cabinet ministers and officials who were involved in sex scandals and corruption.

The former spy said that MAS has hired foreign computer technicians and hackers to monitor e-mail messages, telephone conversations at home and in neighboring countries, where the regime’s critics and activists take refuge. “They are [the technicians and hackers] North Korean, Singaporeans and Russians.”

Kyaw Myint Myo warned exiled opposition groups to be careful of using cell phones and internet, as all sensitive information, messages and phone conversations are carefully monitored.

He said exiled opposition groups not only had to be worried about Burmese informants and spies, but governments in the region with close ties to the regime that regularly provided intelligence information. “We have photos of [exile group] offices and houses where opposition leaders are staying.”

Kyaw Myint Myo also revealed that his counter-intelligence department had a plan to launch the “data thief project,” in which operatives would steal data from opposition groups inside and outside of Burma.

He warned that although Khin Nyunt was purged, informants were still active and capable of penetrating foreign missions in Rangoon. He said keeping a watchful eye on Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, was also part of MAS’s work. He says an informant at NLD headquarters received 200,000 kyat each month. “We also collect information on who visits NLD headquarters and from which embassy.

Although he refused to tell the names of informants and spies who are currently working for the military government, he did say: “You would be quite surprised if I disclosed the names of informants at foreign missions and opposition groups.”

It is well known among activists and army intelligence specialists that the Burmese government keeps spies in neighboring countries to collect information about military build-ups and activities of exiled groups.

Under Khin Nyunt, the Burmese embassy in Bangkok was highly active and believed to have a large intelligence network inside Thailand. Kyaw Myint Myo claims that “active cells” in India and Thailand are still working for MAS. - Irrawaddy

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