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Myanmar (Burma): Whether the military intelligence force in Myanmar has been fully or partially disbanded and who is carrying out their duties (2004 - February 2008)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa
Publication Date 25 February 2008
Citation / Document Symbol MMR102757.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Myanmar (Burma): Whether the military intelligence force in Myanmar has been fully or partially disbanded and who is carrying out their duties (2004 - February 2008), 25 February 2008, MMR102757.E, available at: [accessed 24 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In 2004, the head of the military government in Myanmar (Burma) abolished the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB), an "umbrella organization of intelligence departments" (BBC 22 Oct. 2004). Also in 2004, Khin Nyunt, who headed the NIB in Myanmar (Burma) (BBC 22 Oct. 2004) was reportedly "forced out of the ruling junta" (Nations of the World 2007, 1065; PHW 2007, 854). As well as being chief of military intelligence, Nyunt was also prime minister, a position that placed him third in the political hierarchy of Myanmar (Burma) (BBC 19 Oct. 2004). The official reason for Nyunt's departure from government was that he was "permitted to retire for health reasons" (ibid.).

Nations of the World indicates that most observers believe these official statements were meant to mask the real reason for Nyunt's departure, which was viewed as the result of a power struggle between hard-line military chief Than Shwe and Nynut, who is, "in strictly relative terms," more progressive (2007, 1065; see also BBC 19 Oct. 2004).

The military junta, or State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), abolished the NIB immediately after Nyunt's departure in 2004 (BBC 22 Oct. 2004; Xinhua News 22 Oct. 2004). Shwe reportedly explained this move by saying that the NIB was no longer in the best interests of the people of Myanmar (Burma) (Xinhua News 22 Oct. 2004; BBC 22 Oct. 2004).

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reports that "scores of other military intelligence officials" were arrested after Nyunt left (19 Oct. 2004). Europa World Online likewise reports that "many" military intelligence officers were arrested; in particular, three senior NIB staff members were imprisoned and twelve senior officials dismissed (2007). Several of Nyunt's associates and family members were also arrested (Europa World Online 2007). Moreover, Voice of America (VOA) reports that 2,000 members of the military intelligence unit, which had approximately 10,000 members, were either fired or transferred subsequent to Nyunt's departure (19 Dec. 2004). Political Handbook of the World (PHW) describes the SPDC's actions as a "purge of the military intelligence apparatus" (2007, 854).

According to BBC News, the NIB previously comprised the following sub-organizations: the Military Intelligence Service, the police force's Special Branch, the Bureau of Special Investigation and the Criminal Investigation Department (22 Oct. 2004).

With respect to which organizations are responsible for military intelligence in Myanmar (Burma), a former political prisoner from Myanmar (Burma), who is also a former student leader from the country, provided information to the Research Directorate in a 12 February 2008 telephone interview. He stated that although the NIB was abolished, the specific units that fell under this umbrella organization still exist (Former Political Prisoner 12 Feb. 2008). Instead of all reporting to the NIB, they report to various government agencies (ibid.). The Former Political Prisoner explained the work of the various units responsible for military intelligence in correspondence received on 7 February 2008 and in the 12 February 2008 interview, as outlined in the following paragraphs.

Military Security Affairs (formerly known as the Military Intelligence Service) handles the most serious political issues and issues related to "ethnic cease-fire groups" (Former Political Prisoner 7 Feb. 2008), which are "insurgent" groups with whom the military regime has arranged ceasefires (PHW 2007, 856). Military Security Affairs is now part of Myanmar's armed forces (Former Political Prisoner 12 Feb. 2008).

The police force's Special Branch handles cases involving leading dissidents, including members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Members of Parliament (MPs) from the NLD and from ethnic parties, and members of 88 Generation Students group (ibid. 7 Feb. 2008). The Special Branch reports to Myanmar's police force (ibid. 12 Feb. 2008), which is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs (Myanmar n.d.).

The Bureau of Special Investigation (BSI) addresses financial crimes, including cases involving inappropriate trading, tax evasion and the corruption of government officers (Former Political Prisoner 7 Feb. 2008). It reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs (ibid. 12 Feb. 2008).

The Criminal Investigation Department handles crimes such as murders or rapes (ibid. 12 Feb. 2008). The department is part of Myanmar's Police Force (Myanmar n.d.).

In addition, the Former Political Prisoner stated that the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) has local intelligence branches which monitor the general population in various neighbourhoods across the country (7 Feb. 2008). He added that the Ministry of Information also has an intelligence branch, comprised of pro-regime journalists who monitor journalists, bloggers and Internet users (Former Political Prisoner 7 Feb. 2008).

Further information on the units responsible for military intelligence could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 22 October 2004. "Burma Scraps National Intelligence Bureau." [Accessed 12 Feb. 2008]
_____. 19 October 2004. Kate McGeown. "Khin Nyunt's Fall from Grace." [Accessed 7 Feb. 2008]

Europa World Online. 2007. "Myanmar: Recent History." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2008]

Former Political Prisoner/Student Leader. 7 February 2008. Correspondence.
_____. 12 Feburary 2007. Telephone interview.

Myanmar. N.d. "Myanmar Police Force." [Accessed 13 Feb. 2008]

Nations of the World: A Political, Economic & Business Handbook. 2007. "Myanmar." Edited by Richard Gottlieb. Essex, United Kingdom: Grey House Publishing.

Political Handbook of the World: 2007 (PHW) 2007."Myanmar (Burma)." Edited by Arthur Banks, Thomas Muller and William Overstreet. Washington, DC: CQ Press

Voice of America (VOA). 19 December 2004. "Burma Dismantles Military Intelligence Unit." ( [Accessed 8 Feb. 2008]

Xinhua News Agency. 22 October 2004. "Myanmar Abolishes National Intelligence Bureau." (BurmaNet News) [Accessed 12 Feb. 2008]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Representatives from the Irish Centre for Human Rights, The Irrawaddy, and the Open Society Institute (OSI) and were unable to respond to requests for information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), Amnesty International (AI), Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), Freedom House, International Labour Organization (ILO), The Irrawaddy, Mizzima News, Radio Free Asia, United States (US) Campaign for Burma.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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