The military regime in Burma, marginally in control of a Buddhist-dominated nation that has been torn by clan and tribal strife for decades, apparently is trying to strengthen its position by attempting to buy weapons-grade uranium and nuclear technology from Asian and European nations.
Several experts have confirmed to WND the moves, and say they believe the efforts are to be a bargaining tool to pacify opposition in the upcoming October elections. Others say the power will be used against the West and other political opponents.
Vision Without Borders president Patrick Klein said Burma’s major technology source is the closed regime in North Korea.
“North Korea is helping them develop nuclear weapons,” Klein reported.
Karen National Union Vice Chairman David Tharckabaw adds the program is farther along than just getting uranium from other countries.
“We had a report from the inside that they’re mining uranium to use in a nuclear reactor. They have a secret arrangement for building a nuclear reactor,” Tharckabaw explained.
“They’re sending out state callers to Russia, to Japan and to China to acquire expertise to nuclear weapons,” Tharckabaw added. “Germany has also been one of Burma’s contacts for technology.”
Listen to an interview with Tharckabaw:
The Karen leader agreed that North Korea also is one of the nations that is assisting Burma in its nuclear-weapons program.
“The technology will definitely lead to nuclear bomb production,” Tharckabaw added.
Klein reports that on two occasions within the past year, weapons shipments from one or more Asian countries have been intercepted.
“There was a ship heading from North Korea to Burma and the ship was full of arms. One of the U.S. warships followed that ship and the ship turned around and went back to North Korea,” Klein stated.
“There was another plane a couple of months later and it was flying through Bangkok. They found it was loaded with arms as well and, from what I understand, that plane was headed for Burma,” Klein continued.
“Burma is amassing arms and it looks like they’re working on getting a nuclear weapon if they can,” Klein said.
While Iran’s nuclear program has been grabbing the attention around the world in recent months, Klein said, in fact, there are two active nuclear programs in Burma.
“They have one that is a civilian program that is for research. They have one that is a secret one, for the military. Both are going on simultaneously,” Tharckabaw said.
The Karen leader adds that the nuclear weapon will be used as a “power tool” by the military dictatorship.
“The Burmese military is full of megalomaniacs and they want to use the weapons to build an empire. There have been three empires, and they see themselves as building the fourth Burmese Empire,” Tharckabaw further explained.
Human-rights lawyer and Burma analyst Scott Johnson agrees.
“While the (State Peace and Development Council regime) hasn’t explicitly written why it wants nukes, the most logical reason is that the regime like many military authoritarian governments wants to retain power. For decades they have been under threat for their appalling human-rights records – both from international condemnation and internal strife from a hostile population,” Johnson said.
The Australian-based lawyer adds that the regime uses deliberately heavy-handed tactics and is a copycat of another notorious Asian regime.
“The regime holds itself in power via a police state, bolstered by economic and military support from China (and others) and thus seeks the ultimate weapon, i.e., nuclear weapons, to ensure its survival. In this respect it is emulating North Korea,” he said.
Johnson adds that the Burmese junta needs China.
“China is Burma’s big brother and the natural-gas and oil pipelines will soon be connected through Burma to China. Thus, it’s safe to say that the regime wants nukes merely to bolster its image and ensure they are untouchable like North Korea and Iran,” Johnson added.
The Karen National Union leader believes that the nuclear project shows that Burma is trying to be like its authoritarian Asian neighbors.
“They want to imitate North Korea. North Korea is going ahead with its bomb-making and not worried about the democratic countries, like South Korea. They know that South Korea can’t react,” Tharckabaw said.
“The international community is trying to deal with it and North Korea is going ahead. Burma wants to be like that,” the Karen leader added.
The Karen leader says that the Burmese government is attempting to eliminate any political opposition from the outside and on the inside. Klein says that the Thai military is helping Burma in its effort to eliminate ethnic minorities.
“Some of the Thai generals are working with the Burmese generals. What we’re hearing is that they’re trying to wipe out a lot of Karen people. We’re hearing that with the elections coming in October, they’re trying to wipe out everyone who is opposed to the government,” Klein explained.
Klein adds that this collaboration has led to some major human-rights abuses on both sides of the border.
“My contacts are concerned that they’re going to try to kill the men in the villages, let the women and children flee to Thailand to the refugee camps, and then the Thai generals are going to force the women and children back into Burma to clear the minefields,” Klein said.
Klein adds that Thailand’s interest is financial.
“There’s a lot of lumber coming out of Burma into Thailand, a lot of drugs and a lot of gems. There’s a lot of money that needs to be made,” Klein continued.
Listen to an interview with Klein:
“One day when we were in the refugee camps, the Thai border police were there and they were threatening to send the kids back into Burma for $15 a head,” Klein observed.
David Tharckabaw agrees that financial arrangements are a part of the Burmese government’s dealings with their Asian neighbors.
Klein adds that he’s apprehensive about what happens between now and the October elections.
“I’m concerned that there may be a big slaughter before the election. The tribal people and the Burmese people too are against the military regime,” Klein warned.
Klein also says there are large armies from the Karens and the other tribes that are fighting against the government. It’s a major concern of human-rights groups that the Burmese government is attempting to kill everyone who may oppose the military government.
Klein agrees with Tharckabaw that the Burmese government is trying to make the rest of the world believe that the military government is popular.
“The election is already cut-and-dried. The government has rigged the vote, and I think they’re going to try to make sure the vote comes out 75 percent in favor of the government,” Tharckabaw explained.
“The only thing anyone can do is boycott the vote. But it’s hard to boycott the vote,” Tharckabaw added.
Klein adds that the U.N. has been unwilling to take action against the Burmese military regime. He says that both Russia and China have used their vetoes in the U.N. Security Council to prevent any action from being taken.