Work has been completed on a new radar and missile base in northern Burma as army trucks reportedly travel the length of the country to deliver stockpiles of weaponry.
An army source close to the Northern Regional Military Command told DVB that missile launchers, including North Korean-made 122mm Multiple Launch Rocket Systems vehicles, have been moved into place at the Moe Hnyin base in Kachin state.
The base is operated by Rocket Battalion 603, and lies around 80 miles southwest of the Kachin state capital, Myitkyina, and equidistant between the Chinese and Indian border. Munitions, including trucks mounted with radar systems known as Fire Control Vehicles, were reportedly delivered from Rangoon over the course several month’s prior to the opening of the base in May.
Another radar base known as Duwun (Pole Star) has been opened on a hill close to Moe Hnyin. Two Russian technicians arrived at the base in early May via Myitkyina for a final installation and inspection of the equipment, the source said.
It is the fourth such base to be opened in Burma this year; two others are operational in Shan state’s Nawnghkio and Kengtung districts, while one was recently opened close to Mandalay division’s Kyaukpadaung town.
The reports will likely stoke suspicions about the contents of a cargo delivered by a North Korean ship, the Chong Gen, in April this year. Two months later, DVB released the findings of an investigation that had unearthered evidence of high-level military cooperation between the two pariahs, but this is the first time that North Korean weaponry has been sighted in Burma.
“When it [the Chong Gen] docked at Thilawa port [near Rangoon], electricity around the whole area was cut. It was dark and there was tight security when they offloaded the material,” said Burma and North Korean expert, Bertil Lintner.
“What I heard was that there was definitely a radar system in the cargo – whether there were missiles too I don’t know, but it’s quite possible.” Leaked photographs taken of a visit to North Korea by the Burmese junta’s third-in-command, Shwe Mann, showed that he had visited a missile factory and air defence radar base.
Lintner said also that two weeks ago reports emerged that a group of North Koreans crossed into Burma from China “disguised as Chinese tourists travelling in a tour bus. There were about 30 or 40 of them and they went straight to a kind of missile development centre west of Mandalay”.
The location of the Moe Hnyin is also odd, Lintner said, because it’s “not near any border. It’s in the middle of the northern tip of Burma so maybe they don’t want to offend the Indians or the Chinese”.
Despite the junta’s myopic focus on its military, Burma faces no external threat, adding weight to claims that the army’s expansion has been done with the country’s various armed opposition groups in mind. The alleged development of a nuclear programme, however, appears to confuse this focus.
“Although the military is pointing to ‘external threats’, they also intend to threaten the ethnic minority groups with the weapons,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, a military analyst on the China-Burma border. “The Burmese army wants people to be scared just upon catching sight of the missiles.”