Thursday, February 19, 2009

Junta’s Spies Active among Ethnic, Exiled Groups

"exiled organizations don’t place a high priority on security,”
The Irrawaddy News

Burmese spies actively gather information on Burmese ethnic groups and the exiled community along the Thai border, opposition leaders have long contended.

Such claims appear to be substantiated by a confidential Burmese military intelligence report obtained by The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

The 42-page report was compiled by the Burmese Southeast Regional Military Command based in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, and sent to three key army departments: the Bureau of Special Operation (BSO 4); the operation department of the Burmese army; and the military security affairs department, also known as the War Office, in Naypyidaw.

The report outlines details of the KNU’s 14th Congress in October 2008, includes information on its new leaders and speculates about anticipated KNLA military activities, in addition to outlining information about exiled dissident groups in Mae Sot and along the Thai-Burmese border.

The report sketched activities of numerous groups, including the All Burma Students Democratic Front, the Womens’ League of Burma, the Democratic Party for a New Society, the Democratic Alliance for Burma, the Karen Youth Organization, the Mon National League for Democracy (Liberated Area) and other groups.

Several nongovernmental organizations are mentioned including the Burma Media Organization in Thailand, the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, whose headquarters is in Chiang Mai and the Thailand Burma Border Consortium in Thailand

In addition, the report mentioned information about specific Thai military intelligence officers and also included accounts of the protests by the Peoples’ Alliance for Democracy in Bangkok in October 2008.

The report, while not containing any information of immediate strategic value, was judged to be a valuable overview of the reformed KNU and activities among exiled groups along the border.

Exiled dissident and ethnic groups have always maintained that the Burmese government uses spies, informers and police agents to keep track of what goes on inside exiled dissident groups and uses military intelligence communication units to intercept military radio transmissions and other communication of ethnic groups and exiled groups inside and outside the country.

“They [intelligence agents and spies] also get information from migrant workers and the DKBA,” said Maj Hla Ngwe, joint secretary (1) of the Karen National Union, referring to The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, which operates in alliance with the Burmese military.

It’s believed that much of the information is of a low priority, he said, and has no real intelligence value. Much of the information is believed to be similar to published news reports.

“Mostly, they pass on made-up information to their bosses,” said Hla Ngwe.

One activist in Mae Sot said, “The information is often fabricated, but based true events.”

Of more significance, perhaps, are the disinformation and psychological warfare campaigns waged against ethnic groups inside the country and the exiled community, designed to create distrust and disunity.

Hla Ngwe said Burmese Military Security Affairs distributes disinformation among dissident alliance leaders. “Exiled dissidents need to be more aware of security issues,” he said.

Htay Aung, a member of the Thailand-based Network for Democracy and Development (NDD), said opposition groups are generally lax on security matters and not fully aware of the effects of disinformation campaigns.

“The government spies can get the exiled groups’ information because the
exiled organizations don’t place a high priority on security,”
he said. “They can easily penetrate the exiled groups, because spies have no horns.”

The powerful Office of the Chief of Military Intelligence was abolished in October 2004, several months after a new military government took power. Military intelligence was weaken by the removal of hundreds of officers and renamed Military Security Affairs.

“After military intelligence was abolished, the new military security department was weak,” said Htay Aung. “But now it may have become more powerful and have more funding.”

There are those in the exiled community who believe that Mahn Sha, the late Karen National Union general-secretary, was assassinated on February 14 by junta-backed agents. The murder remains unsolved, and no arrests have been reported.

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