Friday, May 22, 2009

Burmese Army on Internal Alert

The Irrawaddy News

The generals who run Burma don't encourage their subordinates to pay attention to the political affairs of the country. So when soldiers start huddling around radios listening to news of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, the generals start to panic.

According to military sources who spoke to The Irrawaddy recently, commanders around the country have been alerted this week by Naypyidaw to keep a close watch on armed personnel and their families.

The military head office reportedly issued a communiqué to all battalion commanders earlier this week ordering them to “strictly control” the activities of all personnel and their family members and warn them not to take part in any anti-government demonstrations that might occur in the near future.

Family members are currently not allowed to go outside the military compounds where they live, said the sources. Only armed soldiers on duty are allowed outside the barracks.

“It seems that Than Shwe is worried that his troops and their families may be Daw Suu sympathizers,” said a military source in Rangoon.

Normally, Burmese senior generals do not allow army, navy and air force personnel to listen to or watch broadcasts involving the NLD leader, but now the barracks are buzzing with rumors and updates from the Insein courtroom, said the source.

“We are interested to see if the government will sentence Daw Suu,” said a family member from Naypyidaw military regional command. “We certainly don’t think Daw Suu could be guilty of this crime.”

Meanwhile, Maj Aung Linn Htut, a former intelligence officer who currently lives in the United States, said in an open letter that many Burmese army staff want the world to know that there is a profound difference between the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the Tatmadaw, the regular soldiers of the Burmese army.

Aung Linn Htut said that the SPDC was run by senior military generals who controlled the country’s government and economy. Their families were granted all the business concessions, he said.

On the other hand, low-ranked officers, soldiers and general staff members did not receive benefits and faced the same economic hardships as the general public.

In his open letter, Aung Linn Htut said that there were angry mutterings among the army regulars around the country because they were excluded from their superiors’ access to foreign currency and earnings from natural gas revenues.

According to the former intelligence officer, the Burmese military government earned several million of dollars selling natural gas to Thailand and had financed its new executive capital in Naypyidaw from the proceeds.

He accused the SPDC of rifling the nation’s wealth and said payments for natural gas were not transferred to the Ministry of Revenue, but were deposited in a bank account in an unknown foreign country run by the Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Limited (UMEHL).

UMEHL, also known in Burmese as U Pai, was founded in 1990 and deals with the investments and savings of military personnel, military units, retired military personnel, army veteran organizations and the Ministry of Defense.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the junta’s military expenditures account for more than 40 percent of the national budget while Burma’s health and education spending is 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent respectively, as reported in the UK-based Burma Digest online publication.

The Burmese military government buys most of its weapons from Russia, Ukraine, North Korea, China and India, according to researchers.

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