Fri 28 May 2010
Filed under: Inside Burma
Burma’s military junta has expanded its Fiber Optic Cable (FOC) project to its Eastern Regional Command, bringing to a total four military regional command centers whose electronic systems are linked to Naypyidaw via the country’s most modern network.
The FOCs have been laid in Pekon, Aung Pan and Kalaw townships in eastern Shan State, according to local people and military sources. The FOC cables—which are individually no wider than a strand of hair—transmit Internet, telephone and cable TV.
Local people in an area controlled by the ethnic cease-fire group, the Kayan New Land Party (KNLP), said that two- and six-feet deep trenches were dug to hold the FOC pipelines that were installed in late April. The cables connect the Burmese army’s Eastern Regional Command, based in the Shan State capital of Taunggyi, to its Triangle Regional Command center, based in Kengtung.
Since 2000, the Burmese junta has implemented an FOC project in its Western Regional Military Command center in Arakan State; in Northern Regional Command in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State; and in its Northeastern Regional Command center in Lashio in northern Shan State.
The FOC program is conducted by the Directorate of Signals and overseen by the Ministry of Defense. According to military sources, a map of the cables’ transmission routes has been kept so secret that even staff officers at the Directorate of Signals do not know the details.
Sources have speculated that junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe is personally involved in the project and is insistent that the military maintains an independent electronics network from the rest of the country. He is reputedly concerned that military communications are intercepted by hostile agencies, ethnic insurgents, cease-fire groups or foreign intelligence agencies.
“Tet Chauk [Military Chief Than Shwe] has a dream about military communications,” said a military source in Rangoon. “He is suspicious of wireless communication, because he thinks it will be intercepted by hostile organizations. That’s why he wants all his military bases to be linked by FOCs.”
“Than Shwe’s dream is to hold his four-monthly meetings via electronic links, so no regional commander need come to military headquarters,” said a retired commander who spoke to The Irrawaddy. “At the same time, he believes the FOCs will prevent any information being intercepted.”