Saturday, June 27, 2009

Burma Wants the Bomb

The Irrawaddy News

Relations between Burma and North Korea have attracted intense attention in recent weeks, as suspicions grow that the two pariah states are joining forces in a bid to thwart international sanctions against them.

Two recent developments have greatly added to worries that these two countries are becoming a double threat to regional security.

The first was the departure of a North Korean cargo ship, the Kang Nam 1, from a port near Pyongyang on June 17. The ship is believed to be heading for Burma, and is currently being pursued by the US Navy, which may act on a recent UN resolution authorizing inspections of North Korean vessels suspected of carrying banned weapons or materials.

Thakhin Chan Tun

The second was the leaking of documents and video footage showing caves and tunnels being constructed in Burma with the help of North Korean engineers—possibly as part of a controversial nuclear program by the Burma junta.

To learn more about the possible significance of these events, The Irrawaddy recently interviewed Thakhin Chan Tun, a former diplomat who served as Burma’s ambassador to North Korea from 1974 to 1975.

Thakhin Chan Tun, who was also the ambassador to Canada from 1969 to 1974 and to the People’s Republic of China from 1974 to 1976, is a veteran politician who is still actively working for national reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Burma.

Question: Thakhin Chan Tun, you served as Burma’s ambassador to North Korea from 1974 to 1975. Can you briefly describe bilateral relations between the two countries from then until now?

Answer: It was very good at that time. They paid great attention to us, possibly because it was the beginning of our diplomatic relationship. But then, in 1983, Burma invited a South Korean government delegation to visit, and North Korea plotted to assassinate them at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Rangoon, killing 22 people. The South Korean president was fortunate to be late arriving at the place. They [the North Koreans] are the kind of people who can commit such crimes. They dare to do everything.

Now the US has imposed sanctions on Burma and the Burmese junta takes a hostile approach to the US. North Korea is also seen as an enemy of the US. So now [Burma and North Korea] are close again, as allies. What had happened in 1983 is no longer an issue between them. Since they both have a grudge against the US, the Burmese military has formed a new alliance with North Korea. I see the junta has also been trying to foster relations with Iran and Cuba, which are also antagonistic to the US.

Q: What differences do you observe in the relationship between the period of Gen Ne Win’s rule and now?

A: At that time, it was just a diplomatic relationship, based on the fact that North Korea was also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. It was like the relationship that we had with other countries around the world. In the first year of formal diplomatic ties, Burma’s foreign minister [went to North Korea], and then U Ne Win and his daughter Sandar Win made a state visit. That’s it. We severed diplomatic communication after the bombing.

Now the diplomatic relationship has resumed without any apology from them. Of course, we should forgive them, if they apologize. But North Korea has never issued a formal apology to Burma. But it is should be considered absolutely necessary if the two countries want to resume normal diplomatic relations. However, I know that people from here were the first to approach the other side.

Now communications seem better. As far as I have observed, it is basically for military purposes and especially for weapons.

North Korea is smarter than Burma in terms of weapons technology. People from here want those weapons, and they want [North Korea’s] nuclear technology. I assume they resumed relations for that purpose.

A nuclear reactor is reportedly being built here, and if they want to make a nuclear bomb from it, they may need to receive the technology from North Korea.

Q: In the world of international diplomacy, how shocking is an attack like the bombing carried out by the North Koreans in 1983?

A: It is the most serious crime.

It was insulting to Burma. The bomb went off in a building just 30-40 feet from our Martyrs’ Mausoleum, where the fathers of our nation are buried. Some Burmese ministers were also killed in the blast, along with the South Koreans.

Q: So what do you think of the resumption of diplomatic ties with a country that would commit such a crime?

A: It seems like they can just get away with anything.

Q: How will dealing with a country like North Korea, which is extremely isolated in the world, affect Burma?

A: [The Burmese junta] doesn’t think that deeply. They are unfriendly with the US, so they deal with other countries that are antagonistic to the US. The relationship itself seems to show that they don’t care about US policy.

Q: Is the relationship for their benefit?

A: Burma wants nuclear technology. To put it plainly: Burma wants to get the technology to develop a nuclear bomb. They have been sending many students to Russia for years. They study there for three to five years. Now they seem to be getting quite far.

However, Russia is a major world power, so they won’t give [the Burmese] the technical know-how [to build a bomb] because they have to maintain some ethical standards. North Korean, on the other, would be willing to provide this technology if they were approached.

To promote the relationship between the two countries, Gen Shwe Man visited there, and I have heard that the deputy foreign minister is handling the relationship. North Korea is now allowed to open an embassy in Burma.

However, I have to say it is childish of the Burmese generals to dream about acquiring nuclear technology, since they can’t even provide regular electricity in Burma.

Q: Why is China alarmed about the relationship between North Korea and Burma?

A: China understands the Burmese regime’s attitude well. Even if the generals are in a good mood now, they can easily change and become enemies in a short time. Their decisions are based on emotions. I think the same is true of the North Korean leadership.

Now China is trying to reign in North Korea. China has protected North Korea in the past, but now it is reluctant to do so again. I noticed that China didn’t object much to the UN Security Council’s recent resolution on North Korea.

Now China is advising the Burmese leaders to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, although they are not referring to her by name. They have started talking about the need for national reconciliation in Burma.

If Burma moves closer to North Korea, China’s attitude to Burma could become more like its recent approach to North Korea. China has protected these countries to some extent in the past. But China could change its stand on Burma in the UN Security Council. Even if they don’t positively support a resolution condemning the regime, they could abstain from using their veto to block it. Burma may think that it can pursue whatever course it likes without worrying about Chinese support, but the idea that China will support the Burmese regime forever is wrong.

Q: What do you think about relations between China and Russia? Russia recently reiterated its opposition to political and economic pressure on Burma. Is it true that Russia still supports Burma?

A: Russia wants Burma to be its protégé and China thinks the same. They compete with each other for influence on Burma. Now China seems reluctant to support Burma, so Russia is jumping in to support the junta.

Moreover, there are many Burmese students studying in Russia and Russia considers them to be “their” men. I assume Russia wants Burma to be its man.

Q: Burma could use money it gets from selling natural gas to South Korea to buy arms from North Korea. How could tension on the Korean peninsula affect Burma-North Korea relations?

A: South Korea started buying Burmese gas before Burma normalized relations with North Korea. It is only in the past year or two that that there have been reports that Burma was buying arms from North Korea. Now the South Korean president has started criticizing Burma, and if some parliamentarians in South Korea start complaining about [Burma’s relationship with North Korea], it may change [Burmese-South Korean relations]. It depends on the South’s position.

Burma may want to deal with both sides.

Q: North Korea is famous for its tunnel construction. Do you think this is something that the Burmese generals are particularly interested in?

A: When I was ambassador to North Korea, [Kim Il-sung] the father of the current president was still alive. He was very powerful. He used to live in tunnels and we sometimes visited him there. We went there by helicopter and then by car. His home in Pyongyang was just for show. They were always expecting war and were constantly preparing themselves for that. But we could visit him if he was in good health.

Now it is said that the Burmese junta is constructing tunnels in Kyaukse, in Minbu Township in Magway Division, in Chin State and in the Arakan Yoma mountain range with North Korea assistance. This news is spreading, so there may be something to it.

READ MORE---> Burma Wants the Bomb...

SPDC’s will to oppose ‘National Reconciliation’

(Rehmonnya) -The international community has been paying serious attention to the trial against Burma pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but the military regime’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has tried to change that attention by attacking the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Karen people.

This is an old strategy the SPDC has played for several years. When the international community, including ASEAN and Thailand, condemned the Burmese government for the arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the SPDC wanted to show their resentment of the international community.

They then attacked the KNU and Karen people to distract from the arrest, and to factionalize the KNU community. Human rights violations are again being committed by SPDC troops and thousands of refugees flee to Thailand.

The arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the attack against the Karen people in eastern Burma shows that the SPDC does not really want to proceed with ‘national reconciliation’. They totally rejected the international community and oppositions’ proposal for political dialogue, yet still move forward with their 7 point ‘road-map’ to a ‘more disciplined democracy’.

Even after 2010 elections, the political and armed conflict in Burma will continued and many human rights and refugees displacement problems will remain unsolved. Without political reconciliation in Burma, the countries problems will remain unsolved and will continue to require international support.

June 26, 2009

READ MORE---> SPDC’s will to oppose ‘National Reconciliation’...

Over 50 Rohingya pushed back to Burma

Teknaf, Bangladesh (KPN): More than 50 Rohingya were pushed back to Burma this week by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), according to a BDR source from Teknaf.

On Friday, 40 Rohingya ethnic minorities from Burma travelling in two boats were arrested by BDR on Sharpurdip in the morning. They were detained till noon and the men were beaten up. On receiving information, local people from the village went to the spot and requested the BDR personnel to release the Rohingya and send them back to their home land, said Sanmeah from Sharpurdip.

On Sunday, 12 Rohingya were arrested at the Whykong check post while they were proceeding to Chittagong or Cox’s Bazaar for treatment and other purposes. They were unable to process legal papers in Burma given their financial situation and came following an understanding with the Burmese border security forces (Nasaka). The BDR personnel pushed back them in the evening to Burma.

On Thursday, five Rohingya were arrested by the police in Lama in the Bandarban Hill district when they crossed the border. But, there is no information about them being pushed back, said an elder from Lama.

In Burma, the Rohingya community is discriminated against by the ruling junta. The Rohingya try to escape harassment by the authorities. They give money to cross the border from the Nasaka outpost where they pay 7000 kyats per head. This is how they illegally enter Bangladesh. The BDR arrest Rohingya while crossing the border, riding buses on the highway enroute to Teknaf-Cox’s Bazaar, and at the check post. Then the BDR personnel push them back to Burma, said a student who comes to Bangladesh for treatment.

If any Rohingya wishes to cross the border legally, he or she must get a border pass which costs 35,000 kyats, pay 7000 kyats for boat fare and 200 Taka in Teknaf for stamping papers in the entry point. So, the Rohingya are unable to process the border pass, said a trader from Maungdaw who always comes to Bangladesh for business purposes.

READ MORE---> Over 50 Rohingya pushed back to Burma...

Rohingya community pray for rain

Maungdaw, Arakan State (KPN): The Rohingya community in Maungdaw is seeking the blessings of God (Almighty Allah) for rain as most farmers are facing problems in cultivating paddy. They prayed in their area on Friday Juma (weekly) prayer, said a local elder from Maungdaw.

“The monsoon is late this time and we can’t plough our farms as there is no rainfall in our area. So, we requested our religious leaders to pray for rain,” said Anwar, a farmer from Nyaung Chaung village, Maungdaw.

The monsoon season starts every year in the beginning of June, but, we can’t do any thing this time because the monsoon has not set in yet, he added.

“We need rainfall in our area to cultivate crops for our survival,” he added.

“Yesterday, in most of the villages of Maungdaw people prayed for rain in their Mosques after Friday Juma prayers and hoped the blessing will come to us to help cultivate paddy in the farms,” said an elder from Maungdaw.

“We need to pray for rain. In previous years we sat together in the open field and prayed for rain and it did rain,” said a student from Maungdaw.

READ MORE---> Rohingya community pray for rain...

KIA lance-corporal disappears on way home

Lance-corporal So Ba Du of the Special Gorkha Squandron of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) disappeared while returning home from the squandron base in Laiza headquarters to Myitkyina in Burma's northern Kachin State on June 7, said KIA sources.

by KNG

The incident comes at a time of mounting military tension between Burma's ruling junta and the KIA after the latter was pressurized to transform to a battalion of the Border Guard Force (BGF) by the regime.

Lance-corporal So Ba Du is a Gorkha (Nepali). He was returning home in Myitkyina to attend a relative’s wedding after he was given leave by the KIA, said Laiza KIA sources.

Lance-corporal So Ba Du was detained on the Balaminhtin Irrawaddy River Bridge and was checked because he was a Gorkha soldier of the KIA by Burmese soldiers at the bridge checkpoint, KIA Laiza sources said.

According to the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA, the Burmese junta does not like the close relationship and cooperation between the KIO and Gorkhas. The Gorkha soldiers in KIA are always monitored by the junta, added KIO sources.

In April, Gorkha families in Myitkyina were summoned and checked by agents of the junta's military intelligence, the Military Affairs Security Unit (Sa Ya Pha). Young girls were put in prison cells for over a week following their return from Laiza after attending the May Daw festival, said sources close to them.

KIA sources said, KIA soldiers are being harassed in different ways while traveling. It has no idea how many KIA soldiers have been secretly arrested by Burmese troops.

The KIO informed the ruling junta on June 21 that it would like to transform the KIA to a "State Security Force" instead of a "Border Guard Force" as proposed by the junta.

Local reliable sources said, the KIA and Burmese troops are both on high alert and are on standby in the event of a resumption of civil war.

At the moment, the three other smaller Kachin ceasefire groups which split from the KIO/A--- the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K) and Lasang Awng Wa Peace Group in Kachin State, and Kachin Defense Army (KDA) in northeast Shan State have agreed to transform their forces to the "Border Guard Forces", said sources.

READ MORE---> KIA lance-corporal disappears on way home...

US Will Not Use Force to Inspect NKorean Ship

The Irrawaddy News

SEOUL — The United States will not use force to inspect a North Korean ship suspected of carrying banned goods, an American official was quoted as saying Friday.

An American destroyer has been shadowing the North Korean freighter sailing off China's coast, possibly on its way to Burma.

North Koreans take part in a mass rally marking anti-US Day at the Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on the 59th anniversary of the start of the Korean War (1950-53) on June 25. This picture was released by North Korea's official news agency KCNA. The banner reads, "Crush the nuclear war provocation and maneuvers by the US!" (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy met with South Korean officials in Seoul on Friday as the US sought international support for aggressively enforcing a UN sanctions resolution aimed at punishing Pyongyang for its second nuclear test last month. The North Korean-flagged ship, Kang Nam 1, is the first to be tracked under the UN resolution.

North Korea has in response escalated threats of war, with a slew of harsh rhetoric including warnings that it would unleash a "fire shower of nuclear retaliation" and "wipe out the (US) aggressors" in the event of a conflict.

On Thursday, the communist regime organized a massive anti-American rally in Pyongyang where some 100,000 participants vowed to "crush" the US one senior speaker told the crowd that the North will respond to any sanctions or US provocations with "an annihilating blow."

That was seen as a pointed threat in response to the American destroyer.

Flournoy said Friday that Washington has ruled the use military force to inspect the North Korean freighter.

"The UN resolution lays out a regime that has a very clear set of steps," Flournoy said, according to the Yonhap news agency. "I want to be very clear ... This is not a resolution that sponsors, that authorizes use of force for interdiction."

Flournoy said the US still has "incentives and disincentives that will get North Korea to change course."

"Everything remains on the table, but we're focused on implementing the resolution fully, responsibly and with our international partners," she said.

Flournoy's trip came as the US sought international support for aggressively enforcing the UN sanctions.

It is not clear what was on board the North Korean freighter, but officials have mentioned artillery and other conventional weaponry. One intelligence expert suspected missiles.

The US and its allies have made no decision on whether to request inspection of the ship, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday in Washington, but North Korea has said it would consider any interception an act of war.

If permission for inspection is refused, the ship must dock at a port of its choosing, so local authorities can check its cargo. Vessels suspected of carrying banned goods must not be offered bunkering services at port, such as fuel, the resolution says.

A senior US defense official said the ship had cleared the Taiwan Strait. He said he didn't know whether or when the Kang Nam may need to stop in some port to refuel, but that the ship has in the past stopped in Hong Kong's port.

Another US defense official said he tended to doubt reports that the Kang Nam was carrying nuclear-related equipment, saying information seems to indicate the cargo is banned conventional munitions. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to talk about intelligence.

North Korea is suspected to have transported banned goods to Burma before on the Kang Nam, said Bertil Lintner, a Bangkok-based North Korea expert who has written a book about leader Kim Jong Il.

South Korea, meanwhile, plans to use high-tech surveillance and weapons systems to counter North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee said in a Friday briefing.

South Korea plans to employ unmanned reconnaissance planes and add "bunker-buster" bombs to its arsenal in case of signs that the North planned to launch an attack toward the South, Lee said.

Associated Press writers Jae-soon Chang in Seoul, and Pauline Jelinek in Washington, contributed to this report.

READ MORE---> US Will Not Use Force to Inspect NKorean Ship...

New rules for musicians performing abroad

by Solomon

New Delhi (Mizzima) – With instances of artistes seeking asylum in host countries going up, the Myanmar Music Association (MMA) has introduced a new regulation for singers and musicians, who go abroad to perform.

Maung Thit Min, Secretary (2) of the MMA, also known as “Gita Asiayone”, in Rangoon, said a new regulation has been introduced for singers and musicians, who wish to go abroad to perform. It is now mandatory for them to fill up a form and sign a pledge that they will perform decently and will return after their visa expires.

“We introduced the new regulation about three months ago, to warn singers and musicians to perform decently in keeping with Burmese culture and to return home after they conclude their performance,” Maung Thit Min said.

He said, singers and musicians “Who want to go abroad to perform will have to inform us of their exact schedules, details of their trip and performances and sign a commitment that they will return to the country,” he added.

But he said while the MMA has no authority to take action against singers even if they break the rules, the regulation is designed to remind them that they have signed a pledge.

“At present, a lot of singers are going around the world, so we need to make rules for them,” he said. However he added that, if the singers seek asylum in the host counties it is their “personal matter.”

In recent months, a Burmese pop singer Aung Yin was reported to have got asylum in England after visiting for a show for the Burmese community in London, he said.

Dr. Naing Win, a Burmese activist living in London confirmed that Aung Yin had come to England and had applied to the British government for asylum.

“He was granted asylum about three months ago,” Dr. Naing Win told Mizzima.

He said Aung Yin has been in London for several months but he is not aware of the purpose of his stay. But lately, he said, he was told that Aung Yin has been granted asylum by the British government.

While Aung Yin is the first Burmese singer to be granted asylum in United Kingdom, Dr. Win Naing, said there are about 3,000 Burmese asylum seekers in UK.

While it is not clear under what circumstances Aung Yin had applied for asylum, sources said his family remains in Rangoon.

The Burmese Pop singer came to limelight in the early 1990s, when he co-produced an album ‘Akyinna Einmet’ with the deceased popular singer cum composer Htoo Win Thinn.

While not wanting to comment on Aung Yin’s case, Maung Thit Min said, with the Burmese community spread out in several countries including UK, USA, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia, more and more singers and musicians are wanting to go abroad for performances.

READ MORE---> New rules for musicians performing abroad...

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too