Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Burma: Digging the Tunnels, Part Three

(DVB)–Burma is aggressively bolstering its defence in the event of an invasion, according to a series of leaked reports and testimonies that outline a myriad of projects ranging from tunnel digging to possible nuclear proliferation.

In recent weeks, DVB has revealed that with North Korean help, the Burmese junta is developing a complex network of tunnels that can accommodate heavy weaponry and battalions of troops during military operations.

Since then, speculation has grown that Burma is aiming to obtain a nuclear bomb, following testimonies given by two senior Burmese defectors that accuse the government of developing a nuclear reactor in northern Burma. However, further leaked reports show that the defence project runs deeper, with plans drawn up to incorporate civilians in military operations, should the country be invaded.

A leaked report entitled ‘Rangoon Division Military Command: regional mobilisation project’ (hereafter known as ‘RDMC report’) is one of a number of documents obtained by DVB that outline the various stages of Burma’s defence strategy, ones that range from the strengthening of militia groups to use of human shields.

The RDMC outlines several potential scenarios in which Burma could be attacked by “exiled insurgents and opposition groups” or “invasion by means of a coalition army led by a powerful nation”. Much of the preparation is going into bolstering its air defense, implying that an air attack is most likely. There is also another scenario, strongly hinted at in a report entitled ‘Burma-Thai Naval Capabilities’, that points to recent border problems between the two countries as being possible cause for an air invasion by Thailand.

In the RDMC defence project, Rangoon division is to be divided into six zones. Methods of defence in case of attack include “conventional warfare” and “guerilla warfare”, but there is a third strategy, in which the government will use militia groups alongside the Burmese army – this is one reason why they have been developing and nurturing various militias, such as the notorious Swan Arr Shin.

In a project named 'Militia strategy', the list of forces that could be turned into militia is being drawn up systematically, region by region, and includes groups that vary from fire fighters to civil servants to medical workers. Furthermore, families of army troops have been instructed to rally the public so that soldiers can be ‘disappeared’ among civilians and the public can be used in fighting.

Lists of all bridges in Rangoon division have been made in order to cut off the enemy's communication lines during military operations, and all sea routes that could be entered by the enemy are to be designated as minefields.

Furthermore, road blocks and barriers are to be constructed along the roads so that enemy tanks could not enter them easily. According to the RDMC report, the generals believe they can resist the attacks in tunnel stations built in Hmawbi, Phoogyi, Phaunggyi, Indaing, 9-Mile, and Military Hospital in Rangoon division.

Another project, known as 'The Peoples Air Defence' project, outlines a training programme on defence against an aerial attack. Groups of 30 people, likely to be army troops, are taught how to use surface-to-air and handheld missiles, and anti-aircraft guns.

The report for 'The Peoples Air Defence' project details the building of portable missile bases, which would be positioned at crowded areas of the towns, and on top of high-rise the buildings. In this case one could assume that the military is preparing to use human shield as one of its strategies.

Other missile bases and anti-aircraft cannons are located in Rangoon division military command region, and at 15 strategic points inside and outside of the city. These are connected by fibre optic cable networks and radios and telephones, and are connected to the main command centre in case of an emergency.

The report details that the movement of enemies will be monitored by using Russian-made long range radars at Zin Kyaik, Myeik and Kalama mountains outside of Rangoon division. A radar system at Rangoon division radar reception station in Phaunggyi will also be used.

Another leaked military operation report shows that five radar stations designed for air defence purposes are being built at Tavoy and Ngwesaung, with the help of Russian experts. Engineers have been instructed to move these into the tunnels if necessary.

In a confidential report of the minutes of a 2006 meeting between Burma’s second-in-command, Maung Aye, and Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defense, Yury Nikolayevich Baluyevsky, the two spoke of Russian cooperation in supplying Burma with a guided missile system and training Burmese in operation of the system. Russia already supplies Burma with fighter jets and helicopters.

Information leaked from inside Burma about North Korean and Russia involvement in Burma’s military ambitions has been reinforced by such high-profile visits of Burmese officials to the two countries in recent years.

Included in Shwe Mann’s trip to North Korea was a visit to tunnel complexes dug deep into the side of mountains that can hold heavy armoury, including chemical weapons. The North Koreans are known to be expert tunnel diggers, and thus it is unsurprising that the Burmese junta would look to them in assistance for their project. It was during this trip that the two countries formalised military cooperation, and photographs released since by DVB show North Korean advisors training Burmese engineers in the construction of tunnels.

Elements of Shwe Mann’s trip were mirrored in Maung Aye’s meeting with senior Russian defence officials. While Shwe Mann visited radar and jamming stations in North Korea, Maung Aye similarly requested assistance in radar and communication technology, as well as the training of Burmese in using them. During this meeting, Baluyevsky replied that “[Russia’s] president has already directed us to teach Burmese trainees at a cheap price”.

While military cooperation between countries is normal, as is a country’s wish to bolster its own defence, Burma’s method is cause for alarm. What its strategy effectively entails is the forced transformation of civilian groups into armed militias, and the planting of would-be military targets for the enemy in populous areas. Moreover, the Burmese economy is in tatters, yet the government allocates some 40 percent of its annual budget to reinforcing itself against an enemy that doesn’t exist.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of the whole project is found in the final stage of the resistance planning in another leaked military report. Before the melting away of Burmese troops, “overground” opposition groups and pro-democracy activists are to be regarded as the enemy, and are to be wiped out completely. This would be orchestrated with the help of Swan Arr Shin, USDA and other pro-junta groups, which are currently being expanded and trained should the situation necessitate their assistance.


Part 1 - Digging Tunnels

Part 2 - Digging Tunnels

Watch Video of latest trip to NKorea

Reporting by DVB

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