At a juice bar in this agreeable former British hill station [Pyin Oo Lwin], I chat with a group of [Burmese military] cadets hunched over glasses of strawberry milk. One baby-faced 20-year-old tells me his major is naval architecture and shares his dreams of designing warships for a nation that boasts 450,000 soldiers and dedicates 21% of its spending to the military, according to lowball official statistics. Another student is focusing on hydroengineering; he plans to build dams, a lucrative new pursuit of Burma’s military dictatorship, which sells energy to neighboring nations while leaving two-thirds of local households without access to electricity. Yet another narrow-shouldered cadet, who is studying nuclear chemistry, confides, “My specialty is uranium and plutonium studies.” His chosen subject is particularly topical: the U.S. State Department has recently expressed concerns over a possible Burmese nuclear program.
– Extracted from Hannah Beech, “Soldiers of fortune”, TIME, 2 August 2010. Thanks to a long-time New Mandala reader for drawing this interesting article to my attention.