NBC Weapons: The Burmese Bomb

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NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS

August 5, 2009: Recent evidence that Myanmar (Burma) and North Korea have been cooperating on military projects has led to suspicions that Myanmar is developing nuclear weapons. Several refugees from Myanmar insist that there is a nuclear weapons program, with military personnel sent off to Russia for training, and North Korea supplying technology and equipment. But there's nothing definitive, and no compelling reason for the Burmese dictators to spend money they don't have for a weapon they don't need.

Myanmar has military needs, but of a more mundane nature. Last year, India quietly stopped selling weapons to Myanmar. Other nations have picked up the slack. The previous supplier, India, was becoming uneasy doing business Myanmar. India, and Bangladesh had made an informal deal with Myanmar to drive rebels from each other's borders. Over the last few years, the three countries have worked out these deals, to rid themselves of rebel groups that had only survived because they could flee across the border and set up camp until their pursuers went away. For decades, Myanmar's neighbors avoided such cooperative relations, as a form of protest against the Burmese military dictatorship. But eventually, the need to deal with various rebel organizations overcame this distaste, for a while, anyway. Four years ago, India began selling weapons to Myanmar, to obtain a little more enthusiastic cooperation in the anti-rebel department.  Burmese troops have cleared out most of the Indian rebels from their side of the border. Apparently India believes that it can resume arms sales if the "rebels in Burma" problem gets out of hand again. Meanwhile, Myanmar gets all the weapons it needs from China and North Korea, although it has to pay (many of the Indian items were free, or cut rate.)

 Myanmar has been ruled by a military dictatorship for the last 45 years. The generals have run the economy into the ground, and succeeded in suppressing all attempts at establishing a representative government. They have also managed to maintain the support of a fairly large army. How have they managed to pull this off for so long? Simple, the generals have concentrated on maintaining the loyalty of the officers and senior NCOs in the armed forces. This is done by making the military a well paid, by Burmese standards, profession, and selecting carefully from among those who apply to be career soldiers.

 


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