OF BURMAS NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The material in this report
derives from many different sources. Dictator Watch has received a large quantity
of information, much more than what is presented here. We can hint at a bit
of the balance but the majority we cannot discuss at all, because of risk to
the sources. If you have any additional information about these subjects, including
information that confirms or contradicts what is described below, please get
in touch. We will disclose publicly only what you authorize.
In our November 7th statement, we reported that the SPDC is mining and refining uranium and then bartering the final product, yellowcake, to North Korea and Iran. We have now learned that the announcement by the SPDC later the same day, that a North Korean ship in distress had taken refuge in Rangoon harbor, was an attempt to discredit the report. This in itself is indirect confirmation of the news. Also, the SPDC announcement was widely ridiculed, since Than Shwe and his fellow generals are known to be pathological liars.
We have now received word from a second, independent source, with a completely different means of access to the information, that the yellowcake transactions are taking place, including to Iran. We do not yet know the nature of the arrangements with Iran, if they are direct with the SPDC or if North Korea is acting as an intermediary (or Russia). The transactions with North Korea, though, for which the SPDC is receiving missiles and also technical assistance on its own nuclear weapons program, are direct, although they may also be taking place with China and Russia as intermediaries.
(Note: North Korea has its own high-grade uranium deposits, but the state of its mining and refining capabilities is unknown.)
North Korean ships have been visiting Burma for at least the last five years. Ships either dock at a mainland port at night and under tight security, or they anchor at a lighthouse island an hour away in international waters. At the island, Burmese navy ships exchange cargos with the Koreans. (Navy, Customs and Immigration ships are permanently stationed there.) This is also one of the ways that Burmese methamphetamines were distributed in the past, with speedboats bringing the pills to the island for loading onto ships bound for Bangkok.
Nuclear proliferation begins with uranium. In a 2001 document at http://www.energy.gov.mm/Nuclear_1.htm, five known uranium deposits are listed:
1. Magway [Magwe]
3. Kyaukphygon (Mogok)
5. Paongpyin (Mogok)
The document also includes a call for assistance: Interested parties from inside the country and abroad are welcomed for possible cooperation...
It is evident that in the intervening years the exploitation of uranium ore has been successful. We are uncertain if this involves any foreign companies.
We also learned that additional uranium deposits have been found, including in Moehnyin, Kachin Division; southwest of Taunggyi; and also possibly near Moulmein. It is noteworthy that some gemstones from Burma are radioactive, due to their proximity in the earth to radioactive ores. We further learned that in 2001, Russian geologists, with Burma Army security, prospected for uranium in Karenni State. They were discouraged from this enterprise by the KNPP.
The ores vary in quality, including earthen ores and solid rock, and in percentage of uranium metal. Also, the private concession for one of the Mogok deposits was cancelled two years ago and taken over by Burma Army soldiers.
Once the uranium is mined it is refined into yellowcake. We have reason to believe that there is a second uranium refinery in Burma, in addition to the facility on the Irrawaddy River north of Mandalya at Thabeikkyin.
Nuclear reactors and weapons research
Burmas nuclear program dates from Ne Win, who sent a professor to Russia for five years, which individual received International Atomic Energy Commission certification. The program collapsed after 1988, but it was later revived by Khin Nyunt, who searched the states left over after the breakup of the Soviet Union for nuclear experts. The program was again suspended following his purge, but it was quickly restarted.
Russia offered in 2001 to sell Burma a nuclear reactor for research purposes. Similarly, the Soviet Union also helped establish North Koreas nuclear program, in 1964, by offering and then helping to assemble in the country a Soviet research reactor.
The Far Eastern Economic Review reported in November 2003 that North Koreans were now involved in Burmas effort, after technicians from the country were seen unloading large crates and construction equipment at Myothit, Magwe Division. Bertil Lintner in a July 2006 Asia Times article added that North Koreans had been seen at Natmauk, but commented there is no evidence that Russia ever delivered the reactor. However, he also noted that the North Koreans built a huge underground bunker at Taundwingyi, which is one of the acknowledged uranium ore sites.
According to a 2004 article in the Irrawaddy by Kyaw Zaw Moe, Magwe is an area of active fault lines, and it experienced a strong earthquake in September 2003. There is also a report that a bunker in this area shelters ten MIG-29s from Russia.
A second possible site, where Burmas nuclear battalion is located, is in the Setkhya Valley east of Mandalay and south of Maymyo near the villages of Lun Kyaw and Taung Taw. This valley is perpetually covered by clouds, and it is surrounded by mountains. There is a new report of a related nuclear research facility in a restricted area near Wetwun village, northeast of Maymyo. Drivers who make deliveries to the area have to hand over their trucks to personnel from inside.
Another source says that the reactor in Magwe may be relocated, it is also possible that it already has been relocated, to the Setkhya Valley site, because of the earthquake risk at the former.
We can also report that the businessman Tayza is the primary dealmaker for Burmas nuclear and missile programs. He is organizing many of the specific transactions, with the North Koreans, Chinese and Russians. For example, Tayza is the agent for Aeroflot, which flies to Mandalay. The hundreds of trainees who went to Russia were taken in a special train to Mandalay, from which they completed their journey by Aeroflot.
We have learned that twenty-five nuclear physics academics are now in North Korea on a three-year training course.
We also received a report that the SPDC has uranium enrichment centrifuges at one end of the South Nawin Dam (which was built with funding from Japan, and forced labor). If true, this is a significant escalation in the SPDCs program, since enrichment is used to create not only fuel for nuclear power reactors, but also the fissile cores for nuclear weapons.
Regarding missiles, we have received information that is too sensitive, for the sources, to reveal, but we are now more convinced than ever that the SPDC has ballistic missiles.
We can disclose that there is a report that the highway near Minhla is closed once or twice a month for missile test firing. Local roads are also closed. This creates a restricted area for the flight path that is sixty miles long. Tests have been underway for the last three years.
Also, near Hle Gu, just north of Rangoon, two small hills, side-by-side, have been bridged by a large roof and then covered with dirt and plants. Local villagers were told that heavy weapons are stored underneath the roof. Long cylinders, the diameter of bullock cart wheels, and covered by tarps, were transported there.
The information in this and our November report presents a sketchy picture of the SPDCs nuclear program. The people of Burma were surprised at the opulence of the marriage of Than Shwes daughter. We believe there would be a similar degree of astonishment were all the details of the SPDCs nuclear ambitions known, including all the assistance the junta is receiving from North Korea, Iran, Russia and China (and also from the Pakistani nuclear scientists who took refuge in Burma in 2001).
Moreover, we believe that such details are known, by the international intelligence community (certainly by U.S. intelligence agencies). Any decent intelligence initiative directed at North Korea and Iran, and also Russia and China, would reveal links to Burma, which would then become subjects of investigation in their own right. Sources including human intelligence, the types of sources intelligence professionals with large budgets should be able to cultivate inside a target like the SPDC, and also remote sensing uranium activities create a distinct signature, would no doubt yield a far more complete picture than what we have been able to present.
This leads one to question why such a picture has not been publicly disclosed, with the only logical answer being that if the world knew of the SPDCs nuclear threat to international security and peace, not only the threat it presents through the spillover effects of its massive internal repression, diplomats would be forced to act.
The SPDC having radioactive materials is a threat of the greatest possible magnitude, and in many different ways.
The international community prefers to ignore problems wherever possible, but the resistance to action on Burma also reflects a vested interest by the West not to strain relations with the SPDCs patron, China (and also relations with Russia). More generally, diplomats, and political leaders as a class, refuse to divulge secret information until it suits them personally, not the interests of the public, if ever.
This means we must force the issue. Just as by investigating and documenting the SPDCs crimes against humanity Burma pro-democracy activists convinced the international community, grudgingly, to accept that they were taking place, so too will we have to force recognition of its nuclear program and the accompanying danger to world security and peace.
The SPDC and Thailand
Lastly, we have learned that the SPDC has a contingency plan to create a military incident with Thailand, in the event that a significant popular uprising inside Burma develops. Such an incident would shift the focus, both internally and externally, away from the uprising, and also justify a draconian crackdown, similar to the 1988 massacre.
This claim is supported by the recent designation by Than Shwe of Thailand as Burmas nearest enemy.
In closing, we hope the journalists of the world will take note of this report. Our November statement generated some press interest, but nothing like what would have occurred had it been issued by a larger NGO. The fact that we are small should not undermine the legitimacy, and sacrifice, of our sources.