Rangoon MPs Urge Govt to Reestablish National Intelligence Bureau

By Tha Lun Zaung Htet 11 November 2013

RANGOON — Rangoon Division lawmakers are urging the central government to reestablish the notorious National Investigation Bureau (NIB) for National Security. The MPs claim the move is necessary in order to provide security in the country after Burma’s biggest city and several towns experienced a series of bomb attacks last month.

The Rangoon Division legislature supported a proposal on Nov. 5 that says that the Rangoon Division government—headed by former senior military regime member Myint Swe—should urge the central government to set up the NIB.

New National Democratic Party lawmaker U Kyaw, who issued the proposal, said the government should set up the intelligence-gathering agency soonest.

“The NIB is needed for national security and to investigate terrorist attacks. We are going to host the 27th SEA GAMES [in December] and the country will serve as chairman of ASEAN next year,” he said. “Last month, we experienced a series of bomb blasts; that is main reason why we need the NIB urgently.”

Details on the proposal were vague, however, and U Kyaw was unable to explain which ministry would be in charge of day-to-day operations of the spying agency. He only said that it would fall under the authority of the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), a body that has a lead role in a State of Emergency and only meets infrequently.

The NDSC is chaired by President Thein Sein and includes the speakers of both houses of Parliament, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and several other senior cabinet members.

The NIB was part of the Military Intelligence (MI) of Gen Khin Nyunt and was dissolved along with the rest of the MI units in 2004, when Khin Nyunt and hundreds of his officers were purged by former junta leader Than Shwe.

Like other MI units, the NIB played a critical role in the brutal repression of opposition figures, political dissidents and students during the military junta that gained power through a coup in 1988.

After the purge of the MI officers, the task of security intelligence-gathering was taken over by the Military Affairs Security—a unit that was led by then Lt-Gen Myint Swe, who was close to Than Shwe. The police’s Special Branch is another unit that is currently involved in intelligence-gathering.

U Kyaw, an opposition lawmaker, played down any suggestion that reestablishing the NIB would be a throwback to the days of repression, saying “people should forget” the past actions of MI units.

“Every nation has NIB[-like] organizations; America has the FBI and the CIA, Britain has MI 5, Israel has the Mossad and Russia has the KGB,” he told The Irrawaddy. “Our country should have a NIB organization.”

Myint Kyi, a Rangoon legislator with the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said he also supported the idea of setting up the NIB, as the bureau would be “able to arrest the culprits in the recent bomb explosions.”

In mid-October, at least eight explosive devices were detonated in five different states and divisions in Burma. Three people were killed and several others injured, including an American tourist who was staying at Rangoon’s Traders Hotel. Police later arrested a suspect named Nay Toe, who managed a mining project in Karen State, and named him as the main culprit.

Ye Tun, a Lower House MP with the Shan Democratic Party, said any bill to reestablish the NIB should prioritize the protection of Burmese citizens’ rights against government spying.

“For national security and public safety, Parliament should enact a NIB law, but the law must guarantee the rights of citizen and democracy. Forming NIB without [such safeguards] is wrong,” Ye Tun said.

He added, “If you say the word ‘intelligence’ people remember Gen Khin Nyunt, as the Military Intelligence used to investigate ethnic political groups and repress the opposition.”