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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2790

Making a dead tiger alive in Burma

By - Zin Linn

The Burma or Myanmar government has been proposed to bring back the notorious National Investigation Bureau (NIB) for National Security. The Rangoon Division MPs call attention to the return of NIB is compulsory with the aim of security in the unsafe country. The MPs made their proposal after a series of bomb attacks took place in Yangon and some other towns last month.

U Kyaw, lawmaker from New National Democratic Party of the Yangon Division Parliament, submitted a proposal on 5 November saying the Yangon Division Government to recommend the President U Thein Sein’s government to reinstate the NIB.

According to U Kyaw, the country has been preparing to host 27th SEA Games and will have to act as ASEAN’s chairman in 2014. As the nation has faced bomb blasts last month, it is necessary to take security measures in an attempt to keep an eye on probable terrorist attacks.

If looking back into the near past, people have experienced of scandalous activities with the National Intelligence Bureau. The NIB was part of the Military Intelligence (MI) of Gen Khin Nyunt and was dissolved along with the rest of the MI units in 2004, when Khin Nyunt and hundreds of his officers were purged by former junta leader U Than Shwe.

Political activists routinely face torture or ill-treatment during their time of arrest, interrogation and detention. In many cases, torture or ill-treatment have taken place during the often prolonged periods of detention following arrest, while the prisoners are isolated from the outside world and under the complete control of their interrogators.

According to the Human Rights Documentation Unit of the defunct National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, at least six sections of the state security forces have been implicated in the torture and ill-treatment of political and other detainees in their custody. These are the regular army; the People’s Police Force; the Directorate of Defense Services Intelligence (DDSI); the Special Investigations Department (SID); the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI). The activities of DDSI, SID, CID and BSI are coordinated by the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) under the direct control of the SPDC. The DDSI is commonly known by the acronym MIS or MI (Military Intelligence Service) and is the agency most frequently identified as inflicting torture during interrogations. Since 1988, the units under its control (MI-1, Mi-2, MI-3 etc.,) have nearly doubled from 14 in 1989 to 23 in 1991. Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, Secretary-1 of the SPDC, is the head of the DDSI.

Myanmar, on 22 October 2004, enacted a law abolishing the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB), the then state-run Radio Myanmar reported. The news report said that the State was in the process of establishing a developed and discipline-flourishing democratic State, and as it was found that the National Intelligence Bureau Law was no longer suitable for the welfare of the public to be in conformity with the changing situations and with a view to ensuring security and peace, the State Peace and Development Council promulgated the Law Repealing the National Intelligence Bureau Law and dissolved the National Intelligence Bureau.

The broadcast of the new law came three days after Myanmar carried out a surprising and major cabinet reshuffle on 19 October 2004, in which former Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt, who had been military intelligence chief for about 20 years, was removed.

The law, signed by Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Senior-General Than Shwe, states that the existing NIB law, enacted in 1983, is no longer appropriate to the people as the country is approaching a new developed and disciplinary one, said the state-run media uniformly.

The NIB previously included such intelligence sub-organizations as Bureau of Special Investigation (BSI) and Special Branch (SB) dealing with political, economic and criminal matters. Observers here said although the NIB is no longer in existence, the military intelligence (MI) under the defense services is still in operation. However, the special power of the intelligence organization has been much weakened and restricted according to the new law abolishing the NIB.

Coincidentally, the then Secretary-1 Lt-Gen Thein Sein of the SPDC said the seven-step Road Map, the future political plan, was laid down not by an individual person but by the State Peace and Development Council Government itself. It does not concern only a single individual. The Prime Minister was told to announce the principle laid down by the State Peace and Development Council. It intended directly towards the former PM General Khin Nyunt who was purged by the then head of state Sen. Gen. Than Shwe.

The removal of Khin Nyunt did not finish the modifying of Myanmar ’s bureaucracy. The SPDC had since carried on removing those faithful to Khin Nyunt. Wiped out the influence of his intelligence organizations and sacked those suspected of corruption. Charges of corruption were filed against senior officials of the Office of Chief of Military Intelligence (OCMI) who have been found blameworthy. Khin Nyunt was held accountable for the corruption by his removal and businesses owned by his family have been closed or taken over. Khin Nyunt was not put on trial but he was under detention responsible for the corruption due to his family businesses.

In October 2004, Myanmar’s junta detained nearly all departmental heads in the OCMI and their deputies. Two noteworthy exemptions from detention are Brig-Gen Kyaw Thein, head of ethnic nationalities and ceasefire groups, drugs suppression, and Maj-Gen Kyaw Win Deputy Chief of OCMI, according to the then media reports. Some OCMI staffers were forced to retired and some were also arrested. Some officers and other ranks were transferred to infantry battalions. Furthermore, businesses possessed by families of intelligence officers were shut down or seized by the then military regime.

Extraordinary among the roll of businesses concerned is ‘The Myanmar Times Journal’. Since its establishment the Myanmar Times kept away from the tight censorship of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Department under Ministry of Information for newspapers and publications. By chance, the CEO of this controversial news journal was Sonny Swe, son of Brig. Gen. Thein Swe former head of International Relations department of OCMI. As part of a government amnesty that saw 93 prisoners released on April 23, 2013, U Myat Swe(Sonny Swe), the co-founder of The Myanmar Times, was released from Taunggyi Prison in Shan State after serving more than eight years of a 14-year sentence, as said by The Myanmar Times.

During the previous NIB’s era, not only the political prisoners but also business-related prisoners were victims under various tortures by the NIB’s agents who had to obey the military intelligence.

“Torture in Burma’s interrogation centers and prisons is brutal and systematic. Political prisoners are subject to extreme physical assaults resulting in internal bleeding and unconsciousness. In Burma, torture is not limited to physical assaults, but extends to the authorities maintenance of general prison conditions and the ineptness of the prison health care system. Prison authorities routinely and deliberately aggravate prison conditions and deny medical care to political prisoners, causing a level of suffering that amounts to torture.” (Eight seconds of silence, The Death of Democracy Activists behind Bars, AAPP, May 2006.) Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) or AAPP has documented numerous cases of torture of political prisoners occurred since 1988.

Most prisoners of conscience have to face terrible torture and a lack of nutritious food and medicine. The outcome is that nearly 200 political prisoners, including members of Parliament, writers and journalists, have passed away in the previous regime’s jails.

All political prisoners were detained for their activities related to democracy and human rights. Unless the government released these prisoners of conscience, there can be no real hope for democracy and national reconciliation in Myanmar.

Although suffering such an experience of persecution under the NIB, it is amazing that some MPs are urging the quasi-civilian government to restore the notorious NIB as an important institution of the country. Hence, it will be a serious assignment for the representatives-elect and the former political prisoners to review the pro-NIB proposal made by a few MPs who really are retired soldiers. It looks like making a dead tiger alive. \

- Asian Tribune -

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