Documents released by DictatorWatch, one of the more vociferous groups opposed to the Burmese regime, suggest that Burmese students are studying a range of missile and nuclear fuel-cycle activities in Russia, including the production of uranium, reactor operations, and spent nuclear fuel reprocessing. Burma has also carried out efforts to explore and exploit the country's uranium resources.
Let's pause before moving on to the more controversial material. There is no question that Burma went shopping in North Korea, toured the main missile factory, and signed an MOU on defense cooperation. Nor is there any question that Burma attempted to purchase a research reactor from Russia and sent large numbers of students to train in Russia. Once upon a time, if a country tried to purchase ballistic missiles and a research reactor, that made people nervous.
What really caught international attention, however, have been the claims of a defector named Sai Thein Win, a former major in the Burmese Army, who left Burma with a large number of photographs from a pair of technical workshops -- one in Myaing and one in Nuang Laing -- where he claims to have worked. These allegations are carefully summarized in a report prepared by Robert Kelley and Ali Fowle for the Democratic Voice of Burma, a group opposed to the Burmese regime. This is Sai, holding what appears to be a component of a rocket engine called an impeller.
Sai claimed the Myaing facility was associated with a nascent missile program, which would be consistent with his technical training. The Nuang Laing facility may be part of the same missile program, but it has also been rumored to be part of a nuclear program. After examining images of equipment manufactured using the tools at Myaing and Nuang Laing, Kelley and Fowle conclude that "this technology is only for nuclear weapons and not civilian use or nuclear power."
The workshops contain specialized machine tools from Germany and Switzerland. One of the suppliers had doubts about the end-user -- officially the Department of Vocational Training and Education (DVTE) -- and visited the facilities. According to Kelley and Fowle, foreign experts noted a number of discrepancies when visiting the site that caused them to wonder about the credibility of the declared end-use. For example, why did the staff contain only men of military age?