North Korean national dies in Meikhtila

Jan 16, 2009 (DVB), A North Korean who was believed to be a weapon specialist working in a secret research facility in central Burma has died on the way to Meikhtila military hospital after suffering a serious headache.

According to a member of staff at the hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, the unidentified North Korean was already dead when he arrived at the hospital on 9 January.

A Meikhtila resident said the man's body was cremated at around 7am on 11 January with the assistance of a local charity called Yan Aung Myin funeral service.

An official from Yan Aung Myin funeral service said the funeral was attended by a group of North Koreans, assumed to be his family, and a few Burmese army officers in civilian clothing.

"We were informed of his death by Meikhtila military hospital who told us to arrange a funeral service for him," the official said.

"The funeral was held early in the morning and it was rumoured that the authorities wanted to keep it a secret from the public as he was a foreigner who was involved with government work."

Sources close to the military in Meikhtila said the dead foreigner was working on a secret weapons project for the government.

Military analyst and researcher Htay Aung of the Thailand-based Burmese exile group Network for Democracy and Development said the group had received reports on secret facilities being built by the government around Meikhtila.

"We have obtained some information on the government building some secret facilities around Meikhtila, particularly on the one being built near Taung Thar township," said Htay Aung.

"No one from the outside world knows what they have been doing in that facility but foreigners have often been seen around the area," he said.

"I assume that if he was not just a regular tourist, then he must have been some sort of specialist working on a secret government project or in a research facility."

Htay Aung said residents of nearby Taungdwingyi and Myo Thit townships had often spotted foreigners, assumed to be North Koreans, in the area.

Last year there were reports on a Russian national who had gone missing in Shan state but that case was also given a low profile by the government.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat

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