Monday, July 6, 2009

Burma: Digging the Tunnels, Part Two

July 6, 2009 (DVB)–The tunnel project underway in Burma includes plans to build covert ammunitions factories that will produce surface-to-air missiles controlled from underground command bases, leaked intelligence documents reveal.

Last week DVB revealed that some 800 tunnels were under construction throughout Burma, with sections of the project dating as far back as 1996.

The majority of tunneling and construction equipment for the project has been bought from North Korea in a series of deals over the last three years which total at least $US9 billion, according to two purchase orders received by DVB.

Photographs released by DVB also show North Korean advisors in Burma training their Burmese counterparts in tunnel construction.

There are suggestions that the project includes preparations to withstand chemical and nuclear attacks, following reports last week that the tunnels are lined with bomb-proof material. However there is no hard evidence to verify this.

There will also be room to hold anti-missile batteries and tanks in various sections of the tunnels.

The project, the name of which translates as People’s Militia Strategic Operation, involves an extensive network of tunnels across the whole of Burma.

Engineering documents reveal that close to the remote Burmese capital Naypyidaw is a tunnel believed to house either military operational command headquarters or an advanced weapons factory.

The tunnel site is near to the Pyinmana to Pinlaung road, between Kathedoo North stream and Kathedoo South stream, and is designed to hold more than 1000 soldiers for several months.

The interior is divided into rooms that cater for varying amounts of people. Earth refilling and tree planting projects outside the tunnels have been carried out to camouflage their entrances.

Details about whom the transactions between Burma and North Korea are being channeled through are not known.

Five Burmese companies – Htoo Trading, Kambawza, Asia World, Aden and Shwe Thanlwin – are known however to have provided machinery for the digging of the tunnels.

Htoo Group, the parent company of Htoo Trading, owns the Burmese airline company Air Bagan.

The documents also reveal that security in Rangoon division has been carefully reshuffled and reinforced over recent years to prepare for a possible foreign invasion. It was largely for this reason that the capital was moved in 2005 from Rangoon city to Naypyidaw, 350 miles north.

Six military regions have been developed in Rangoon division to counter “foreign aggression”. Tunnels built throughout these regions are camouflaged and capable of hiding troops in an emergency situation.

Inside the tunnels, there are plans to build ration stores and reserve food supplies exist alongside factories, weapons and ammunition stores, and hospitals.

These tunnels would be controlled by a series of underground command centres linked via an elaborate fibre-optic communication network. The network will connect military operational headquarters to other army units stationed in the tunnels.

Based on intelligence documents, automatic shutting down facilities, poison gas devices and smoke sensors will also be installed. There will be regular power supply lines running throughout the tunnels, along with a ventilation system that the purchase order shows comes from North Korea.

For security reasons, the nearest buildings around them are used as guard posts. Residential buildings and governmental offices are built on top of some tunnels, close to the entrances.

A secret visit by General Thura Shwe Mann, the Burmese regime’s third-in-command, along with 18 other high ranking military officials to North Korea in November 2008, is another indicator of how the two countries have been cooperating.

During the visit, Shwe Mann and North Korean Army Chief General Kim Gyok-sik signed an Memorandum of Understanding on further cooperation plans. The Burmese delegation also visited an underground military hardware factory near Pyongyang.

The government in Burma continually publicises infrastructural developments such as road and dam building but has kept the tunnel project highly secretive.

Despite the extent to which Burma is bolstering its security – it is thought to spend some 40 per cent of its annual budget on the military - it remains without external enemies.

Original DVB Burma’s military regime: Digging the tunnels - Part I
or here: Part I
Part III

Reporting by DVB

In DVB TV report...
Lately there has been news all over the world about the Burmese military junta’s tunneling project. How, and with what intention, is Burma, one of the world’s poorest countries, running such a secretive project worth billions of dollars? We interview U Bo Bo Kyaw Nyein, a Burmese analyst who has been monitoring the situation in the country.

DVB Video

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