Burmese Nuclear Ambitions

The Norwegian paper Morgenbladet today carries a worldwide scoop: the first interview (Burma’s worst enemy) provided to the Western press by Sei Thein Win, a former major in the Burmese army who defected months ago. What makes what he has to say so remarkable is that he was – or he claims to have been – deeply involved in an alleged campaign by the military junta in power there to develop atomic weapons.

As written, the piece is really something out of James Bond. “I’m not really here” Sei tells the Morgenbladet journalist, who cannot be permitted to provide any outside details whatsoever of the defector’s location, to protect him against Burmese assassination-teams scouring Europe to find him. But we do get some internal details: the locale is an anonymous apartment where even the landlord is not allowed to know who his tenant really is; the major sports long hair quite unsuited to the military man that he once was, along with glasses that are for disguise, not actual use; the living room is “furnished with military minimalism” that includes only a table, a computer, a book of “Business English verbs” – and a razor-sharp dagger.

And inside his head is copious information that he has already spilled about the Burmese government’s attempts to develop its own nuclear weapons. He has brought along “hundreds of photographs” as well. The regime back home has already denounced him as a “deserter and criminal”; on the other hand, no less than Robert Kelley, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), calls him “a source with truly extraordinary information,” information which happens to be consistent with the other evidence investigators have accumulated about the alleged Burmese nuclear effort. Kelley himself has already heavily relied on Sei Thein Win’s account for a report he brought out last May under the imprint of the dissident TV/radio station Democratic Voice of Burma (based in Oslo – there’s the Norwegian connection), entitled “Nuclear Activities in Burma” (whose short version is available here for you on the Scribd site).

It’s damning testimony. Then again, it’s (so far) based on only one witness. Can he be trusted? How will the world’s great powers react? And what will “M” say – especially when he learns that the account on the Morgenbladet’s website is but an abridged one, that the full Norwegian article on Sei Thein Win is only to be found in today’s printed edition?

Miss Moneypenny, get our man in Oslo on the line immediately! Not so fast, Chief. Turns out that the Independent newspaper has grabbed the full Norwegian piece and – with some shifting words-and-phrases around – brought it out in English.

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