‘Poison Laptops’ Distributed by Govt Peace Team?

KNU and government peace delegations hold talks at the Sedona Hotel in Rangoon on April 6, 2012. (Photo: The Irrawaddy

The murky world of Burmese politics has long been ripe territory for conspiracy theorists and other assorted crackpots. From American tourist John Yettaw swimming across to Aung San Suu Kyi’s lakeside home on junta orders, to astrologers telling ruling generals to dress in women’s clothing to counter the Nobel laureate’s influence, there is no end to the weird and wonderful speculation.

And the country’s current brush with political reform has apparently done little to assuage such deeply-held suspicions, with a hardliner plot to disrupt Karen National Union (KNU) peace talks using a poisoned laptop among the latest bizarre beliefs doing the rounds.

Col Moe Phyu, a leading Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) officer and key member of the KNU peace team, died on May 11 shortly after a second round of negotiations with a Naypyidaw delegation.

According to his family, Moe Phyu was hospitalized when he suddenly suffered hypertension after using a laptop provided by the government. Although outsiders would consider such allegations ridiculous, many in the KNU leadership continue to harbor deep distrust.

And recently, some top KNU officials have confessed of fearing that they would be poisoned while dining with government representatives, such as President’s Office Minister Aung Min, during peace talks, after several rebel leaders passed away in recent months.

One hing-ranking military official, who asked to remain anonymous, confessed to fearing that he would be killed in this manner. “U Aung Min mentioned my name,” he told The Irrawaddy. “He said that he wanted me to come along with the KNU peace delegation for peace talks. But, I didn’t go.”

He explained his suspicions grew after Aung Min, the government’s chief peace negotiator with ethnic armed groups, also requested that some influential leaders of the KNLA, the KNU’s military wing, accompany the Karen peace team.

Aung Min apparently wanted to see Brig-Gen Baw Kyaw Heh, the commander of the KNLA Brigade 5, outgoing KNU Vice-Chairman David Takapaw and foreign-born Brig-Gen Hsar Gay, who served as the KNU’s political representative for Portugal and Spain as far back as 1995.

Rumors spread within the Karen community along the Thai-Burmese border that food prepared for the peace talks was contaminated with poisons that exacerbate diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Many believe that the Burmese peace delegation consumed the same food at mealtimes but took medicine immediately afterwards to counter the affect of the poison.

Zipporah Sein, the newly-elected KNU vice-chairwoman, was recently hospitalized in the Thai border town of Mae Sot after suffered from acute high-blood pressure. She also has hypertension and diabetes. Some sources said that her health has worsened after returning from several rounds of peace talks.

While outsiders are quick to pour scorn on the paranoia apparently displayed by ethnic armed groups, others think that their bitter experiences during decades of civil war mean that such fears are understandable.

Some Karen people also suspect that the medical treatment provided to KNU peace leader David Taw, who passed away in Rangoon in October, might have contributed to his death. He was being treated by a military physician at Mingalardon military hospital at the time, with many Karen insisting that he would still be alive if instead treated by doctors in Thailand.

However, the 65-year-old had admittedly been suffering from lung disease and diabetes for three months before his death, and was even hospitalized several times in Chiang Mai, Thailand, prior to travelling to Rangoon.

Despite this continued distrust between the KNU and central government, the rebel group signed a historic ceasefire agreement on Jan. 12, 2012. The KNU was formed in 1947 and has been waging war for greater autonomy since 1949, with allegations of underhand tactics common during this time.

In 2006, there was even bizarre speculation about the death of the Gen Bo Mya, then-chairman of the KNU. Many in the Karen community reported that Bo Mya suffered a leg wound after wearing a pair of shoes presented by the Burmese government at his birthday party in Rangoon. The celebration followed ceasefire talks with ex-Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in 2004.

Then in February 2008, former general-secretary of the KNU, Mahn Sha Lah Phan was assassinated by two hired gunmen at his house in Mae Sot. The Burmese government and a breakaway Karen rebel were deemed responsible for the attack.

It remains to be seen if the memory of such acts, and the conspiracy fears that use them for support, will undermine the ongoing peace process.

6 Responses to ‘Poison Laptops’ Distributed by Govt Peace Team?

  1. This news show even Karen high rank military officer needs education.
    Hypertension and Diabetes diseases are not developing by Viruses or Bacterias.
    These diseases are developing base on peoples’ life style and taking times to develop in sufferer.  Peoples need to regular exercise at least 30 minutes or walk everyday and eat plenty of Vegetables and Fruits. Eat fish instead of meat. Higher Cholesterol level in blood is contributing to develop Hypertension, Diabetes and other diseases. Burmese peoples need to reduce consuming Palm Oil its saturate fat can produce higher Cholesterol level in blood.
    Karen educated person with medical knowledge should explain how bad fats and good fats can effect our healthy life style to Karen leaders.

    •  Dear Chopchop
      The high ranking KNU leaders might know your health education , particularly related to the important of  nutrition and diet for medicinal purpose  or self-healing vitality because they has or had several hospitalization in Thailand’s hospitals. The leaders are mostly in the rural areas for fighting or administration so they eat or ate more vegetable or fruits , than animal meals for food shortage in battle fields wtih physical exercise .
      I understand that the medical standard of Thai ( in term of health education) , usually trained or educated from USA is not lower than those of our Burmese medical professionals , usually trained by UK.
      You might forget to mention that the main reason is the cheater or unethical bama military thugs who give a lot of psychological stress to the KNU leaders as well as the all Burmese ethnics who were and are raped and killed by bama army (cruelty). For those news as well as personal experiences , the KNU leaders are now suffering from PTSD ( post-traumatic stress disorder with or without paranoid ideation but not amount to the psychosis-like US Vietnam veterans  ) .  Luckily, they are capable to fight for their own people until now. Anyway, thank for your health educations and concerns to all Burmese , particularly ethnics.  You might know that than shwe is the most cruel bama military man in  Burmese history because he is the first man to order to rape the ethnics for rewards. He is merely good in psychology in the poorest country , Burma so he knows the affect of PTSD (rape woman and kill man).

    •  I forget to add the information that because of their (KNU leaders) hectic life for the sake of their own people , they might be  unable to follow the medical advice or education strictly.  Therefore , check or treat if there is any PTSD ( post traumatic stress disorder).

  2. I think this article turn the local belief into professional media approach (hear and say) or local gossip. This article turns all non-state arm groups to be too important figures like the late Che Guarvara which was noted that he was executed by CIA’s order in one south African Nation’s hill. I do not know anyone this article mentioned about that was poisoned by people involveed or lead the current Burma demobilisation process (currently known as peace or ceasefire process).

    In war, non-combat fight (peace talke or what ever ceasefire) is part of one use agaisnt the opposition. This is the classic theory between two groups fighting or against each other.

    In case of Burma, when Ne Win took power after his second coup, he aksed for peacetalk. Many ethinic people joined including some KNUP member in the name of Ma-da-nya-tah. Many people suvived for 20 years to die.

    I do not think that the current government will be crooked just to play game, they have upperhand now. And also they do not think they will use this non-politcal approach to kill, the good sample would be the late David Taw, the media said that he support peace process between KNU and Burma. If the current Burmese government just try to end up him, there would be consequence.

    Health problem mention in this article is comman and it is common among the current Karen leaders. Diabites is the discease many current Karen leaders are suvivring including the late Bo Mya and the late Mahn Sha.

    Sometimes it is good to uterlize our media professionalism to talk about many things.

  3. The real question is; how safe are Than Shwe, Kyaing Kyaing, Thandar Shwe, Zaw Phyo Win, Khin Pyone Shwe, Aye Aye Thit Shwe, Tun Naing Shwe, Khin Thanda, Kyaing Shwe, Khin Win Sein, Thant Zaw Shwe, Dewar Shwe, Kyi kyi Shwe and Nay Shwe Thway Aung?

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