Civilians warned not to leak tunnel information

Oct 19, 2009 (DVB)–Locals in a town in central Burma say they have been warned by government troops not to leak news about a tunnel being built by the military or their villages will be razed.

The 19-mile long tunnel is being built between the villages of Ywarmon and Phatthantaung in Magwe division, according to a local in the nearby town of Natmauk.

“Now even the village authorities are too scared to talk about it,” he said. “Security is really tight in the area and taking photos is also prohibited.”

Another local in Magwe division said that four years ago the army contacted his son, a graduate of the Government Technological College, and persuaded him to work in a weapons factory being built underground in Ngaphe town near to Magwe city.

The man said that an official from the army had offered his son 35,000 kyat ($US35) per month to work on the project. “The man said he would not be able to visit home after started working in the tunnel,” he said.

In June DVB released a series of reports compiled from leaked government documents that outlined the junta’s plans to develop a network of tunnels underneath Burma that would accommodate troop battalions and armoury in the event of an invasion.

Some 800 tunnels are thought to be under construction, with sections of the project dating back as far as 1996.

The project has been clouded in secrecy, but appears to be part of a longer-term strategy to bolster Burma’s defence capabilities.

The junta is using North Korean advisors for its tunnel system, after a senior government delegation visited Pyongyang in November 2008 and took a tour round military tunnels there.

The majority of tunneling and construction equipment for the project has been bought from North Korea in a series of deals over the last three years which total at least $US9 billion, according to two purchase orders received by DVB.

The Bangladesh-based Narinjara news agency last week quoted a military source as saying that a tunnel had been dug into a mountain in Burma’s western Arakan state to store fighter jets. The tunnel is thought to be connected to a nearby air base in Ann township.

Arakan state lies alongside Burma’s border with Bangladesh, which in recent weeks has become the site of a military build-up from both sides following a dispute over ownership of gas blocks in the Bay of Bengal.
Reporting by Aye Nai

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