October 15, 2010
Burmese authorities have set up closed-circuit television surveillance cameras in border areas, mostly in Kawthaung in the southernmost part of the border with Thailand’s Ranong Province.
Maung Tu, a resident in Kawthaung, said local authorities have set up dozens of cameras at border checkpoints, markets and crowded downtown areas of Kawthaung.
No official reason has been given for the cameras, though sources suggest they have been installed as part of increased security coverage to monitor anti-government unrest prior to the election, human trafficking and terrorist attacks.
Local authorities in Tachileik town on the border with Mae Sai in Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province set up one camera at the border checkpoint a month ago, a local resident said. The checkpoint is located on the Burmese side at the end of the bridge linking Tachiliek and Mae Sai.
“If they [authorities] have surveillance cameras, they don’t need to photograph and film in person,” Maung Tu said, referring to police and intelligence officers who were seen filming and taking photos during the Buddhist monk-led anti-government uprising in Sept. 2007.
Sources suggested the cameras may have been installed to monitor potential threats from ethnic armed and opposition groups that could enter Burma through the border and conduct attacks that could disrupt the November elections.
Sources in Myawaddy on the border with Thailand’s Mae Sot town reported no sighting of cameras being installed in the area, however. Many Burmese opposition and ethnic rebels belonging to the Karen National Union are based nearby.
Burmese state-run media, meanwhile, often accuse ethnic armed groups and opposition groups of being responsible for bomb blasts in the country.
On Friday, the state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper ran a report blaming the ethnic Kachin cease-fire group, the Kachin Independence Army, for a deadly landmine explosion that went off on Wednesday in northern Kachin State, killing two people and wounding one.
The blast and the newspaper report were the latest signs of the increasingly hostile government stance towards the ethnic armed cease-fire groups ahead of the general elections.