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[cdn-nucl-l] Nuclear Burma
Posted in the Washington Post on January 6, 2002 and at:
Sunday, January 6, 2002; Page B06
SO NOW Burma is going nuclear. The Southeast Asian nation also known as
Myanmar, one of the poorest in the world, has purchased a 10-megawatt
"research reactor" from Russia. Groundbreaking is scheduled for this month
at "a secret location near the town of Magwe," reports the Far East Economic
Review. The news coincides with reports that two Pakistani nuclear
scientists, wanted for questioning in their own country for reported
connections to Islamic extremists, found refuge in Burma. None of this
means, necessarily, that the thuggish generals who run Burma have
aspirations for a nuclear arsenal. Maybe, like dictators throughout the
atomic age, they see nuclear power as a glorification of their otherwise
More interesting perhaps is the seller's motivation. Put differently, is
there nothing the Russian Atomic Ministry won't stoop to? Most civilized
governments shun the Burmese regime. Democratic leaders who had to fight
their own dictatorships, such as South Korea's Kim Dae Jung and the Czech
Republic's Vaclav Havel, tend to be the most supportive of Burma's
beleaguered democrats. But even governments less inclined to act on the
basis of morals or ethics find the odiousness of Burma's dictators too
pungent to ignore -- which leaves the "engagers" in a kind of isolation of
Leader of those engagers and arms suppliers, not surprisingly, is China. The
Burmese junta's corruption and its history of massacring peaceful
pro-democracy students must be comforting to Chinese President Jiang Zemin,
who recently toured Burma. He said the nation "must be allowed to choose its
own development path suited to its own conditions" -- the usual words of
dictators who do not allow their own people to choose anything. Then we have
Japan, ever eager for commercial advantage, and some U.S. and European
clothing importers and energy companies, such as Unocal. These, at least,
show occasional signs of embarrassment at the assistance they render the
world's leading practitioner of forced labor. And then there is Russia,
selling MiG-29 fighters as well as nuclear technology and demonstrating, yet
again, its less than full embrace of the democratic values it claims now to
By aligning themselves with the junta, the governments of Russia and China
may gain commercially in the short term, but they are unlikely to reap
long-term strategic advantage. Burma's economy is imploding. The regime is
so fearful of its own people that it recently banned a Norwegian postal
stamp honoring Aung San Suu Kyi, the rightful leader of Burma who remains
under house arrest a decade after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The junta
puts people in jail for owning fax or copying machines. That is a leadership
without much prospect, and when it falls, and the nuclear reactor is
rusting, most Burmese people are likely to remember who stood with them and
who sided with their oppressors.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
Some information on Burma from the US state department...
Burma (Myanmar) - Consular Information Sheet
November 28, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Burma (Myanmar) is a developing, agrarian country ruled
by a military regime. The country's political situation is relatively
volatile because the military government suppresses expression of opposition
to its rule. The capital is Rangoon.
The country has begun to encourage tourism after a long period of isolation.
Foreigners can expect to pay at least five times more than locals do for
hotels, airfare, and entry to tourist sites. Tourist facilities in Rangoon,
Bagan, Taunggyi, and Mandalay are adequate, but they are very limited in
most other areas of the country.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Travel to, from and within Burma is strictly controlled
by the Government of Burma. A passport and visa are required. Travelers are
required to show their passports with valid visa at airports, train stations
and hotels. There are frequent security roadblocks on all roads and
immigration checkpoints in Burma, even on domestic air flights.
Upon entry into Burma, tourists are required to exchange a minimum of $200
(U.S.) for Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC). The FEC office is located
between Immigration and Customs. The face value of the FEC, issued in
denominations from one to 20 dollar equivalents, is equal to the U.S.
dollar, but its actual value fluctuates. Any amount over $200 (U.S.) may be
exchanged back to U.S. dollars. The first $200 (U.S.) cannot be exchanged
back into U.S. dollars. These procedures are subject to change without
The military government rarely issues visas to journalists, and several
journalists traveling to Burma on tourist visas have been denied entry.
Journalists, and tourists mistaken for journalists, have been harassed. Some
journalists have had film and notes confiscated upon leaving the country.
Information about entry requirements as well as other information may be
obtained from the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, 2300 S Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone 202-332-9044/6, or the Permanent Mission
of Myanmar to the U.N. 10 East 77th St., New York, N.Y. 10021, telephone
212-535-1311. Overseas inquiries may be made at the nearest embassy or
consulate of Burma (Myanmar).
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Foreigners, including U.S. citizens, have been caught
up in the Burmese Government’s suppression of the democratic opposition.
U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested, tried and deported for, among
other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature, photographing sites
and activities, and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy
leaders. Burmese authorities have warned U.S. Embassy officials that future
offenders of these vague, unspecified restrictions will be jailed in lieu of
U.S. Embassy officials are not allowed to travel outside Rangoon without the
permission of the Burmese Government. Therefore, it may be difficult to
assist U.S. citizens quickly should an emergency arise.
The Burmese authorities have announced that terrorist groups operate within
the city limits of Rangoon. A small incendiary device exploded at a downtown
pagoda in 1996 and other bomb devices were reportedly found by Burmese
authorities in 1999 and 2000.
Burma experienced major political unrest in 1988 when an undetermined number
of Burmese democracy activists were jailed or killed by the government. The
military government refused to recognize election results in 1990, which the
opposition won overwhelmingly. Burma experienced major student
demonstrations in 1996, and demonstrations occurred in August and September
of 1998. Popular unrest and violence continue to be possible. U.S. citizens
traveling in Burma should exercise caution and check with the U.S. Embassy
for an update on the current situation. U.S. citizens are encouraged to
carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and photo pages
at all times so that, if questioned by Burmese officials, proof of U.S.
citizenship is readily available.
In 1995, there was one reported guerrilla attack by Karen insurgents in the
vicinity of the Yadana natural gas pipeline, Tenasserim Division. There are
reports that future attacks on the pipeline may be contemplated.
In December 1996, two bomb explosions occurred at the Kaba Aye Pagoda in
Rangoon. There have also been bomb attacks against family members of senior
military officials, and against trains. The Thai-Burma border area in
Southern Shan, Mon, Karen, Karenni, Chin and Rakhine states have been the
scene of occasional fighting between government forces and various insurgent
More at the above web site...