Military defectors reject accusations

Two men who leaked information on Burma’s nuclear programme and were subsequently attacked by Burmese state media as “slanderous” frauds have defended their actions.

Sai Thein Win and Aung Lin Htut, two former majors in the Burmese army who featured prominently in DVB’s exposé of Burma’s nuclear weapons programme, were last week slammed as mere “deserters and fugitives” by the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

Sai Thein Win had worked in a factory that built prototypes for nuclear missiles, and provided DVB with the bulk of information about the nuclear programme for the documentary, Burma’s Nuclear Ambitions. Aung Lin Htut, who worked in the government’s Military Intelligence Service during the Khin Nyunt era and was Burma’s ambassador to the US, spoke at length of the regime’s military projects.

Both men were accused in the article of being criminals; Aung Lin Htut “was declared a fugitive on 20 May 2005 after a lawsuit had been filed against him…for misappropriating a State budget worth $US4,525”, as well as other charges “for high treason”, the article said.

Sai Thein Win meanwhile had apparently lied about his position as major in the army. “As he is not only a deserter but also an offender having committed other crimes, plans are underway to take action against him.”

It said that DVB, which was formed in 1992 and became the first non-state television station to broadcast in Burma, “is a killer broadcasting station that is hateching [sic] evil plots and sowing hatred between Myanmar and the international community and among the Myanmar national people”.

Sai Thein Win responded to the accusation by sending DVB a document from Naypyidaw’s Defence Services office in 2009 which formalised his promotion from captain to temporary commanding officer (major rank) in the military factory near to Thabeikkyin.

Thabeikkyin has become the focus of analysis into Burma’s nuclear programme: seven miles north of the town lies the so-called Nuclear Battalion, home of the Science and Technology Regiment. Sai Thein Win claims that it was developed for the sole purpose of producing a nuclear weapon.

Aung Lin Htut similarly claims that the accusations against him are untrue. A receipt from the Burmese embassy in Washington appears to show the transfer by Aung Lin Htut of $US85,000 to Min Lwin, the new military attaché that replaced him at the embassy in 2005.

Reports from exiled Burmese media claim that intelligence officers have regularly visited Sai Thein Win’s hometown of Kyaukme in Shan state. The New Light of Myanmar article claimed however that “no authorities concerned [with the leak] have detained or arrested their family members”.

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