Who's next?
June 3, 2010 10:55 PM   Subscribe

A Burmese general has defected from the country to tell the world about the military junta's top secret nuclear weapons program. Sai Thein Win reveals that Singapore and Germany have been selling SLORC technology used to convert uranium into weapons-grade fuel. The end goal of the program is not to defend Burma from other countries but to protect the military elite from the underground democratic opposition. In response, US Senator Jim Webb cancels his trip to Burma. A full report will air on Al Jazeera starting at 6AM GMT.
posted by shii (71 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
How could you use nukes against an indigenous democratic movement? Seems like it would be somewhat... imprecise.
posted by delmoi at 11:02 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


And suicidal.
posted by Caduceus at 11:06 PM on June 3, 2010


So is this dude a Chalabi?
posted by Artw at 11:07 PM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's the Germany we know and fear.
posted by Mick at 11:08 PM on June 3, 2010 [16 favorites]


wtf?
posted by atomicmedia at 11:09 PM on June 3, 2010


The Burmese junta has never been completely ... rational.

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that they specifically choose nuclear weapons because they thought the atomic number of Uranium was "lucky".
posted by Avenger at 11:10 PM on June 3, 2010 [9 favorites]


If you have nukes, you hvae power to do almost anything you want.
posted by chaz at 11:13 PM on June 3, 2010


Yeah, seriously, what the hell, Germany?
posted by Caduceus at 11:14 PM on June 3, 2010


holy shit!
posted by the_bone at 11:19 PM on June 3, 2010


> How could you use nukes against an indigenous democratic movement? Seems like it would be somewhat... imprecise.

It's partially a gun to your own head situation, but also an unstable country with nuclear weapons brings a lot more motivation for countries that are potential targets to help stabilize that country, even if it means supporting the existing regime.

i mean, I wouldn't be surprised if the current powers that be see them as things to negotiate their legitimacy at their rule, since now they have the big guns that all the other power players have.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:20 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sai Thein Win reveals that Singapore and Germany have been selling SLORC technology used to convert uranium into weapons-grade fuel.

Well, CNC Machines.
posted by Artw at 11:21 PM on June 3, 2010


By the way, the opposition party run by Aung San Suu Kyi was banned on May 6.
posted by shii at 11:22 PM on June 3, 2010


The power of nukes isn't just in what they can do...its what people THINK they can do.

So yeah, if Israel bombed Iran, or Iran bombed Israel; Pakistan bombed India, India bombed Pakistan; North Korea bombed South Korea, or even South Korea getting nukes and bombing North Korea, the end result is the same: EVERYONE in the vicinity (both countries) are fucked by nuke cuz they're so close to each other.

But people for some reason believe that having nukes will either deter others or can be used against their enemies without ill effects on themselves.

Weird.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:22 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hmm. Anyone think sanctions against Germany are even remotely likely? Anything more than a mild tsking? Seriously, selling those lunatics anything that helps them get closer to a nuke should involve at the very least a stern ball punch.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:23 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone think sanctions against Germany are even remotely likely?

Er, no?

There's a teeny-tiny list of the alleged german death machines on the right side of this image here. I'm not an expert on milling machines but this seems like pretty standard light manufacturing equipment to me.
posted by Artw at 11:27 PM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


My bad. Still, is the ball punch out of the question?
posted by Ghidorah at 11:31 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, there is the question of whether this business with the education ministry was a dodge to get around any sanctions or the like.
posted by Artw at 11:34 PM on June 3, 2010


As Artw said the tools sold to Burma appear to be fairly general-purpose machine tools:
Two companies in Singapore with German connections sold many machine tools to the Burmese government, notably the Department of Technical and Vocational Education (DTVE). [....] The German government did not have derogatory information about DTVE when the tools were sold and allowed the sale.
The German sellers became suspicious that the "vocational education" tools weren't being used in an educational context; the article says that DTVE is a front for weapons programs. I think this is a lot less relevant than the much more direct evidence that Sai Thein Win brought that Burma is tryig to develop isotope enrichment capability and short-range missile capability.
posted by hattifattener at 11:38 PM on June 3, 2010


You know who else had a nuclear program based on "unrealistic experiments and crude engineering" .
posted by Artw at 11:40 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stay tuned for CNC Music Factory's next club hit, "Gonna Make You Glow (Everybody Duck And Cover Now)".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 PM on June 3, 2010 [12 favorites]


Al Jazeera seems to be always breaking the hard news while CNN is still talking about van der Sloot.

(I know it's 2 AM CST, but that's no excuse... and there's been evidence of this for awhile now)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:43 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


(nice title, shii. We'll try to stay serene and calm/ When Alabama gets the bomb.)
posted by orthogonality at 11:51 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


It wouldn't surprise me to learn that they specifically choose nuclear weapons because they thought the atomic number of Uranium was "lucky".

Maybe they are big fans of Peter Greenaway. (For those that don't know, Greenaway has a heavily structural film aesthetic, many of his films include lists/numbers/counts adding to 92, the atomic number of Uranium).
posted by scodger at 12:01 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


So when Burma grows up, it wants to be North Korea? That's the model they're trying to emulate?
posted by Kevin Street at 12:21 AM on June 4, 2010


This is sending serious chills down my spine.
posted by ouke at 12:32 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pft. Al Jazeera. So old media. Wither and die dinosaurs, the hordes of citizen bloggers are making you obsolete.
posted by rodgerd at 12:36 AM on June 4, 2010


Seems like it would be somewhat... imprecise.

Accurate enough to hit Rangoon from Naypyidaw I figure.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:00 AM on June 4, 2010


Honest question: why is Germany (or anyone) selling manufacturing equipment (or anything at all) to Burma?
posted by !Jim at 2:04 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Money?
posted by ZeroAmbition at 2:09 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


reveals that Singapore and Germany
There's the Germany we know and fear.
Yeah, seriously, what the hell, Germany?
sanctions against Germany


yeah, cast the first stone. you of all people.

you make it sound like our government is selling nukes like north korea does. nothing could be further from the truth. the linked article describes the german government as "diligent" and "suspicious" and yet you just hammer on as if this was some pinata-whacking contest.

the sale of this equipment sounds like an unfortunate error in judgement but not like an event that came out of malicious intent and merits "sanctions."

if you want to condemn germany for really crappy things some are doing here I suggest looking into land mines.
posted by krautland at 2:20 AM on June 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


Honest question: why is Germany (or anyone) selling manufacturing equipment (or anything at all) to Burma?
just so we're clear: I don't think we or anyone else should.
posted by krautland at 2:22 AM on June 4, 2010


Honest question: why is Germany (or anyone) selling manufacturing equipment (or anything at all) to Burma?

"Germany" isn't selling squat. German companies may be. That's slightly different.

For the same reason Suzuki have shifted motorcycle manufacturing facilities there, or, for that matter, most companies are happy to manufacture in China: brutally repressive, bribe-happy regimes are great for profits.
posted by rodgerd at 3:05 AM on June 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


Stay tuned for CNC Music Factory's next club hit, "Gonna Make You Glow (Everybody Duck And Cover Now)".

I can't ignore it anymore. I read it a while ago, and decided not to say anything. But nobody has, and I can't stand it anymore.

Its not "CNC Music Factory"; its "C&C Music Factory".


Trying to get a nut to move your butt to the dance floor...
posted by hal_c_on at 3:07 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Its not "CNC Music Factory"; its "C&C Music Factory".

So the funny part of the joke was...

Plus, I think it's C+C, no ampersand.
posted by maxwelton at 3:40 AM on June 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


hal_c_on wrote: "EVERYONE in the vicinity (both countries) are fucked by nuke cuz they're so close to each other."

Our definition of "fucked" differs drastically from much of the world. Many people consider "fucked" to be shortly meeting a grisly end. We consider "fucked" to include dying from cancer caused by radiation 20 years from now.

If you don't consider the long term effects, nuclear weapons make a great deal of sense as long as your target isn't upwind of your current location. After all, most of the really "kill you shortly" nasty shit decays within in a few hours to days at most. (high radiation flux=short half life,low radiation flux=long half life)
posted by wierdo at 4:07 AM on June 4, 2010


KHAAAAAAAAAAN!
posted by alby at 4:09 AM on June 4, 2010


So when does Hillary go in front of the UN Security Council?
posted by armage at 5:22 AM on June 4, 2010


How could you use nukes against an indigenous democratic movement? Seems like it would be somewhat... imprecise.

Not necessarily. There's lowland Burma, populated by the majority Bamar people, who are basically the same ethnicity as the Junta, and there's miscellaneous Burma - around 13 ethnic groups in the hills & regional areas well away from the Bamar heartland.

When a bunch of ethnic groups are all segregated off into their own geographical regions, it would be theoretically feasible to nuke a bunch of them, with relatively minimal impact on the others.

Having said that, and having been to Burma a couple of times, I'd guess that making a home-grown lightbulb would be beyond their technical capacity, let alone a bicycle (all imported from China), further yet a car, even further still a plane, let alone anything even vaguely resembling a nuke.

Unless "vaguely resembling" means "a balloon painted black with an atom symbol on it, made just to scare the Chin, Kachin, Karen, Shan and so on into thinking we have a scawy weapon"
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:29 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stay tuned for CNC Music Factory's next club hit, "Gonna Make You Glow (Everybody Duck And Cover Now)".

Things That Make You Go Boom?
posted by RokkitNite at 5:59 AM on June 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Man, you gotta love all these crackpot regimes with delusions of grandeur. It's like the hobo who comes around with cap in hand, asking for change, while jiggling a machine gun-shaped thing in his coat in a vaguely threatening manner. Rather than risk being possibly riddled with bullets from some home-made rig, you just give him the change.

Given the Burmese junta's penchant for being irrational, I wouldn't put it past them to want to just nuke Aung San Suu Kyi's house.
posted by WalterMitty at 6:10 AM on June 4, 2010


Wouldn't chemical weapons be cheaper, easier, and more contained for eliminating dissidents? It's not like they'd be the first.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:22 AM on June 4, 2010


Nice idea, but unfortunately the US has a trade embargo on Burma.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:42 AM on June 4, 2010


I'm pretty sure the Chinese won't allow Burma to get anything even roughly approximating a nuclear weapon, and as far as chemical weapons are concerned the country is believed to already have an indigenous stockpile so external acquisition would be unnecessary.
posted by aramaic at 7:21 AM on June 4, 2010


You guys, we should boycott Pepsi!!!
posted by symbioid at 7:21 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the Chinese won't allow Burma to get anything even roughly approximating a nuclear weapon

Yeah, because trusting the PRC to police nuclear proliferation in the region has really worked out with North Korea, right?
posted by blucevalo at 8:08 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't chemical weapons be cheaper, easier, and more contained for eliminating dissidents?

Absolutely; biological and chemical could be cheaper, more effective, and easier to produce, but nothing brings home the ability to induce fear and garner international attention like having your own nuke.
posted by quin at 8:16 AM on June 4, 2010


I'd guess that making a home-grown lightbulb would be beyond their technical capacity
been watching charlie rose much, I see.
I liked that quote, too.
posted by krautland at 8:24 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


China's geopolitical position in NK is different than it is in Burma; I don't think China is seriously concerned about the NK nuclear arsenal, and in fact probably finds it to be a useful counterweight/bargaining chip. For one, it meant that the US is now far more invested in the stability of the NK regime than it was before, which is something China wants -- China has a lot to lose if NK falls apart catastrophically, so it's to their advantage if the other major powers in the region ALSO stand to lose in that collapse.

A Burmese nuke, on the other hand, doesn't counterbalance anyone except possibly Thailand or India, neither of which China is seriously worried about. India is already counterbalanced by Pakistan, and Thailand is just a non-issue except possibly for the Spratlys, which is already confused by the involvement of everyone else in the area anyway (so if they wanted to counterbalance Thailand, they could just do it via someone else).

...I just don't see China gaining anything by having nukes in Burma, whereas they did gain by having NK develop nukes. On the contrary, it seems to me they'd only lose; they've got plenty to worry about already and adding nuclear weapons to the mix just seems like they'd be borrowing trouble.
posted by aramaic at 8:51 AM on June 4, 2010


There's the Germany we know and fear.

Didn't anyone read the article?
The companies believed the machines were to be used for educational and vocational training, but the German government, suspicious about the end use, sent a diplomat and an expert to examine the machines that were installed in two special factories in Burma. The expert was suspicious that the machines would be used for uses other than training; there were no students and no universities nearby, and there were no women students. The expert noted that none of the male students wore military uniforms. DVB has examined the photos and some of the "students" who wore civilian clothes during the expert visit wear military uniforms when the Europeans are not there.

Sai provided recognizable photos of the equipment installers and the Germans during their site visit. This is one of many indications that he was at the factories and that his story is very credible. It is also fortunate that the German government was diligent and visited these factories to verify the end use. The Burmese were probably not telling the whole truth, but the visits allow serious verification of the facts.
The end goal of the program is not to defend Burma from other countries but to protect the military elite from the underground democratic opposition.

Frankly, that doesn't make much sense. The article has a better explanation: they're imitating North Korea.
Like their model, North Korea, the junta hopes to remain safe from foreign interference by being too dangerous to invade. Nuclear weapons contribute to that immunity.
posted by russilwvong at 9:13 AM on June 4, 2010


The other day, I was imagining a remake/sequel to Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang (with Dick Van Dyke and Kate Winslet as his ex-fiancee's granddaughter, Verily Scrumptious) that was based around the idea that Vulgaria had the bomb. Not quite so funny now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:32 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]




Why all the dumping upthread on Germany but not on Singapore? Seems kind of condescending of the Singaporese. Like we don't expect any better of them.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:35 PM on June 4, 2010


I have no doubt that the junta would have have nukes, killer satellites, and giant robots with laser eyes if they could and the colonels may have discussed all of these. But this story sounds exaggerated. Although not a nuclear expert, the defector described technical demonstrations at a secret facility which Kelley said appeared to back up suspicions of nuclear ambitions. So a non-expert describes stuff to an expert who says, "Could be, maybe."
From the complete report: "...our assessment [is] that the Burmese nuclear program is quite primitive." Those German tools?: "He [Sai] indicated that many of the German tools were unusable due to damage and poor maintenance. Photos of equipment show rust, rat droppings and damaged hydraulic and electrical lines." In other words Burma lacks the ability to maintain this equipment, much less use it to manufacture nukes. "...reports that a reactor has been sold and that Burma is building a 10 MW reactor on its own seem far fetched and pointless." Finally:
From all of the above we conclude that it is likely that Burma is trying to attempt many of the nuclear program steps reported by previous sources. Unrealistic attempts, such as the Molecular Laser Isotope Separation project, unprofessional engineering drawings and the crude appearance of items in photos, suggest that success may be beyond Burma’s reach.
What is surprising to me is that there is no alarm expressed about the considerable evidence from Sai that Burma has a missile program for SCUD-type weapons. That is something within its reach and something that could do considerable harm to Karen or other settlements, particularly if the colonels learn from Saddam Hussein and use gas payloads. But I suppose no one cared about that story until they added the word "nuclear".
posted by CCBC at 2:38 PM on June 4, 2010


Dude's a Major. Not a general. Not making a comment on the truthfulness of the article, but proofing is a key here. Facts are important things.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:00 PM on June 4, 2010


Here is a real CNC music factory. I would go so far as to say it is a huge success.</derail>
posted by autopilot at 3:38 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have no doubt that the intent is genuine, but Burma has a nuclear program the way kids selling lemonade have a business. Just look at the picture of the guys proudly displaying their homemade glove box.
posted by zennie at 3:55 PM on June 4, 2010


been watching charlie rose much, I see.
I liked that quote, too.


I had to google to discover that "Charles Peete "Charlie" Rose, Jr. (born January 5, 1942)[1] is an American television talk show host and journalist. Since 1991, he has hosted Charlie Rose, an interview show distributed nationally by PBS since 1993."

I don't think he's shown on Australian TV.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:43 PM on June 4, 2010


I don't think he's shown on Australian TV.

Sooo, you're saying you've murdered Charlie Rose, eaten his heart, and wear his skin?
posted by aramaic at 4:59 PM on June 4, 2010


Naturally. You've gotta treat your guests according to the old traditions. We're not savages here, you know.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:44 PM on June 4, 2010


I don't think he's shown on Australian TV.
oh yeah, I forgot you guys don't really have the internet. my bad.
posted by krautland at 4:31 PM on June 5, 2010


Autopilot - the yellowcake is a lie.
posted by Artw at 5:12 PM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The companies believed the machines were to be used for educational and vocational training

Anyone who believes this is naive. I have direct experience with an instance of "isn't this going o be used to XXX?" -> "No, the official plan of record is that it's going to be YY" -> "But it's obviously XXX" -> "No, YY."

A number of large European companies have done a bunch of deals which are obviously shady but (after the discovery of which) they plead ignorance or unexpected consequences of some totally innocent actions (see Nokia-Siemens, for instance, and Iranian cell phone tracking).
posted by rr at 7:38 PM on June 5, 2010


oh yeah, I forgot you guys don't really have the internet. my bad.

oh, of course! let me now just seek out the website of some guy i've never heard of!

Jan van Helsingbergen! nup, drew a blank. Phil "PP" Phillipson III? another no result. meh, this sucks.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:50 AM on June 6, 2010




Inside Burma's black box
posted by homunculus at 4:01 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]




meh, this sucks.
me thinks he pleadeth stupidity. or was it ignorance?
posted by krautland at 4:42 PM on June 12, 2010


crikey, strewth! a bloke's gotta be stupid or ignorant to not know every product of the great streaming diarrhetic arsehole of american cultural output.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:03 AM on June 13, 2010




Wait, what? Ack, Wrong thread.
posted by homunculus at 9:28 AM on June 13, 2010




« Older 4chan's domination of the educational system...   |   The Book Tower Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments