Maj Sai Thein Win
More defections from the Burma Army have been reported after the defection of Maj Sai Thein Win, the source of the latest exposé of the Burma ruling military junta’s nuclear weapons program, according to sources from the Thai-Burma border.
The latter deserters are reportedly from Air Defense Command, under the command of Lt-Gen Myint Hlaing, former commander of the Northeastern Region Command. They were identified as Captain Aung Ko Ko and Captain Aye Min Maung, who deserted in the same month, said an informed source from Thai border security.
Capt Aung Ko Ko who deserted on 21 May was from Air Defense Battalion # 3036 and Capt Aye Min Maung, who deserted on 3 May, was from the Air Defense Base#4.
“But there have been no reports about where the two have gone to,” the officer said.
Following the two’s defections, Lt-Gen Myint Hlaing has passed an order on 16 June, to every subordinate level command to prevent its own men from deserting. If there is someone reported fleeing from a unit, the commander concerned will be held responsible for the desertions. In addition, he would also be given heavy punishment and would be forced to resign by the Tatmadaw, if his men are reported to have defected to opposition groups.
The headquarters says that the reason for more desertions is because unit commanders do not have practical measures to monitor its own officers, especially while they are on a visit to their families or on holidays. Another fact is commanders did not make efforts to capture those deserters in time.
“More desertions are being informed from other locations, some from low rank officers and some just private soldiers,” he said.
Top leaders are more worried about internal unity within the army after Sai Thein Win’s disclosure of its nuclear program, according to a source close to Naypyitaw.
A border-based group Network for Democracy and Development (NDD), quoting documents it had compiled, reported on 23 March 2007 that the Burma Army, with 215 infantry battalions and 340 light infantry battalions totaling 555 in September 2006, had been losing about 10,000 men every 4 months, most of them through desertions.
In the past few years, as many as 200 officers have defected. Missile expert Maj Sai Thein Win deserted in February.