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SCMP-Army looks to space for better

Subject: SCMP-Army looks to space for better ground control 

South China Morning Post
Wednesday  May 26  1999
The Mekong Region

Army looks to space for better ground control

The ruling military regime is seeking tenders for a satellite communication
network for the armed forces.

A hand-phone for every unit would be a huge stride in bringing the military
under more effective central command.

But it may create problems for any satellite company that takes on the job.
Burma's only existing satellite network is a limited one provided by Hong
Kong-based Asia Satellite Communications.

This is ostensibly for civilian use but is geared up to provide
long-distance telephone services in strategic border areas.

Jane's Defence Weekly pointed out that the Asiasat satellite was made in the
United States, which has applied sanctions on new investment in Burma and a
comprehensive ban on arms sales.

Jane's said it was "unclear" what effect US sanctions might have on any
attempt to lease transponder space for blatantly military use.

The proposed network involves the construction of a system linked to a
satellite transponder.

Initially there would be a hub station in Rangoon and 10-15 remote stations
that would eventually increase to 200.

"This is a very flexible type of system that can be set up very quickly," a
telecommunication expert said in Bangkok.

"It could give them the sort of tight communications network they've never
had before."

The Burmese army has been forced to concede a fair degree of autonomy to
regional military commanders because of inadequate communications.

So operations against refugees have sometimes appeared awkwardly timed for
Burmese diplomacy.

Drug trafficking and smuggling also appear to thrive best in areas where
local commanders enjoy a high degree of autonomy.

The creation of a full-scale satellite network would cap more than a decade
of military effort in improving not only communications but the means to tap
into the message systems of rebel and rival groups.

By the mid-1990s, Rangoon had equipped itself with a "cyber war" centre,
mostly with computer technology supplied by Singapore.

This has the ability to tap all phone, fax and e-mail communication in and
out of the country.