This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
101129Z Nov 05 C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 001294
DEPT FOR EAP, DS, M, P, CA/EX, R
BANGKOK FOR ESC AND COMPANY C
PACOM FOR POLAD AND J-2
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2015
SUBJECT: CHARGE MEETS WITH RANGOON MILITARY COMMANDER
REF: A. RANGOON 1266
B. RANGOON 1263
C. RANGOON 1143
D. RANGOON 1140
Classified By: Charge Shari Villarosa, reason 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: Charge met with Burma's Chief of Military
Affairs Security and Rangoon Military Commander Lt. Gen.
Myint Swe on November 9 to discuss security issues affecting
the U.S. Embassy. Charge outlined specific ways in which
security could be improved around our Embassy, noting that
the most effective measure would be closing the street
entirely. The General committed to work with the Embassy to
make adjustments to increase security, including supporting
twice monthly meetings between Embassy officers and relevant
Burmese officers. As evidence of his follow-up, the Embassy
was informed the morning of November 10 that Embassy
personnel could use wooden barriers to close the road in
front of the Embassy at night from 2300 to 0430. He also
discussed upcoming plans to move the capital to Pyinmana and
indicated his willingness to discuss other non-security
issues. End Summary.
2. (C) After exchanging pleasantries, Charge outlined
additional measures that needed to be taken to improve
security in front of the Embassy: improved lighting across
the street from the Embassy, prohibition of large trucks,
traffic controls (lights and police) to prevent the stoppage
of traffic in front of the Embassy, regular meetings between
Embassy officers and relevant Burmese police and military
officers to discuss security matters relating to the Embassy,
and improved radio communications. She also reserved the
right for U.S. Embassy personnel to scan pedestrians walking
past the Embassy and the right to close the road immediately
with our own barriers if we received an imminent threat
warning. She noted that opening the road made the Embassy
very vulnerable to car/truck bomb attacks, and the best
security measure would be to close the street entirely.
3. (C) Gen. Myint Swe replied that he understood our
concerns and added, "the terrorists are also attacking us.
We don't accept terrorist attacking others on our soil - we
won't let it happen." The General repeated claims we had
heard from the Foreign Ministry (reftels) that the street had
to be opened due to public complaints about the inconvenience
of this closure of one block. In fact, he added that the
public complains frequently about too much security in the
city and around the railroad station. Nevertheless, he said
"on security, we will not compromise or reduce our efforts.
We always give your security our full attention and use full
measures. As Commander of Yangon Command, I won't allow
anything to happen."
4. (C) He then reminded us that this is a police state
saying, "we have covered all of the six main roads coming
into the city -- we check everything at these six entry
points. Yes, it may be possible for small explosive devices
- someone may sneak them through, but big ones, it is not
possible. The truck bombs that happen in other countries, we
won't let that happen here. You may not always see it, but
there is lots of security in your area--police, army and
others." Pointing out that his office is close to the
Embassy, he said that he has personally checked the area
around our Embassy on numerous occasions, both in uniform and
out of uniform. "I have walked all through your area." He
said he had just instructed the Ministry of Home Affairs to
reinforce security on the back of the U.S. Embassy. Since
Burmese security officials checked people "from a radius
far-out from around the embassy," he told Charge that the
U.S. Embassy did not need to check them again as they walk
past. He also said that the GOB was using a list of
suspected terrorists from 16 countries received from the U.S.
Embassy to screen people entering the country.
5. (C) Charge mentioned her previous service in Indonesia
had heightened her security awareness. She pointed out the
improvised explosive devices can be made of common
ingredients that might not be noticed at checkpoints. The
General relied that "we notice terrorist actions in other
countries, and we study this as Army officers because it's a
professional responsibility to look at it from every angle."
The Charge repeated the suggestion of regular meetings
between U.S. Embassy officers and relevant Burmese to address
security issues. The General agreed that twice monthly
meetings would be welcome. In addition, he said that Embassy
officers had the telephone numbers to contact his office at
6. (C) The General said that primary responsibility for
Embassy security rests with the Minister of Home Affairs,
Major General Maung Oo, "but I oversee him, so his
responsibility is my responsibility. Yesterday and this
morning I met with him and told him to add more guards. Have
you met with MG Maung Oo?" Charge replied that she had
requested a meeting several weeks ago, but had not yet been
given an appointment. The General replied "He is
responsible to me. I will have him meet with you."
7. (C) Changing topics, the Charge inquired what the move of
the capital to Pyinmana would mean for General Myint Swe as
Rangoon Commander. He replied that the Minister and Ministry
of Home Affairs will move, but all the security and police
would remain in Rangoon. He said he would move to Pyinmana
as the Military Affairs Security Commander. A new Rangoon
Commander would be appointed (he did not specify when, but
implied soon), and he would instruct the new Commander to
meet with the Charge. In the meantime, he would stay in
Rangoon wearing his two hats.
8. (C) As the meeting concluded, the General mentioned again
that he always passes by the U.S. Embassy on his way to work.
Charge invited him to come in to "have an exchange of
views--not just about security." The General said he would
maintain regular contact with Charge "not just on security,
but anything else that you need help with."
9. (C) Embassy DATT arranged the meeting and accompanied
Charge. The Chief of the OCMAS Foreign Liaison Division and
another FLD staff officer sat in the meeting on the Burmese
side, along with an interpreter and a notetaker. DATT is an
excellent notetaker, so we could provide an extensive readout
of Gen. Myint Swe's comments to give readers a sense of the
atmospherics. Contrary to the messengers on Embassy security
with whom we dealt in the Foreign Ministry, we finally
reached a decision-maker in Gen. Myint Swe. Apart from
sticking to the principle that the road should be opened, the
General seemed favorably inclined towards additional measures
that could improve our security. In contrast, other
diplomats in town have failed to get any further attention to
their security needs since the sudden reduction of security
presence around all diplomatic missions on October 8 (refs C
10. (C) General Myint Swe, believed to be a protg of SPDC
Chairman Than Shwe, made quite clear that the military has
supreme authority, including over the cabinet increasingly
populated by generals. This is a police state, and he
intends to keep it that way. However, we may have an opening
now to the senior leadership to direct our concerns regarding
the continued detention of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi
and other political prisoners, as well as to press for the
full participation of all the people and political parties in
determining Burma's political future.
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