Dec 4, 2009 (DVB), Three men who allegedly leaked information on Burma's secret tunnel project appeared in a Rangoon court yesterday on charges of espionage, which could be punishable by death.
The men, a former army major and two Burmese foreign ministry officials, are also accused of leaking the details of senior governmental visits to North Korea and Russia.
Intelligence documents detailing the two visits, as well as North Korean involvement in a project to develop underground military facilities across Burma, have been obtained by DVB.
According to the documents, Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has been developing the tunnels since 1996.
As well as advanced communication systems and possible weapons factories, the tunnels are being built to accommodate battalions of troops in the event of an invasion.
One of the three men, ex-major Win Naing Kyaw, had worked as a personal assistant for late junta secretary-2, General Tin Oo, who died in a helicopter crash in 2001.
After retiring from the army, he joined a non-governmental organisation under the UN Development Programme in Burma, and went for training in Cambodia. He was arrested on his return at Rangoon International Airport on 29 July this year.
Win Naing Kyaw, along with Thura Kyaw, a senior clerk from the foreign ministry's European desk, is accused of leaking documents related to a 2006 visit by the SPDC's second-in command, Maung Aye, to Russia, where he discussed the procurement of a guided missile system with Moscow's deputy minister of defense, Yury Nikolayevich Baluyevsky.
The two are also accused of exposing details of a trip by SPDC number three, Shwe Mann, to North Korea in 2008, where he visited tunnel complexes dug deep into the side of mountains that can hold heavy armoury, including chemical weapons.
The information about the two visits was allegedly distributed via former SPDC official Aung Linn Htut, who is now living in exile after government authorities found the documents stored in his computer hard drive.
The third defendant, Pyan Sein, is accused of spreading information about Burma's tunnel project close to Naypyidaw via a woman known only as Ma Sint.
The men are facing a raft of charges, including the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, the Emergency Act, the Electronics Act and the Official Secrets Act. The final charge can be punishable by life imprisonment or execution.
More army officials have also been detained in connection with the case. One of them, special warrant officer Aung Kyaw Linn from the Myanmar Army (ground force), is currently detained in a military prison under a direct order from the military court.
The trial, which began on 3 November, is being held in a closed court inside Rangoon's Insein prison, where Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was tried earlier this year.
Reporting by Yee May Aung