Coco Islands

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For other uses, see Cocos Island (disambiguation).
Coco Islands
Island group
Coco Islands is located in Burma
Coco Islands
Coco Islands
Coordinates: 14°7′N 93°22′E / 14.117°N 93.367°E / 14.117; 93.367
Country Myanmar
Region Yangon
 • Total 18 km2 (7 sq mi)
Elevation 93 m (305 ft)
 • Total 0
Time zone Myanmar Standard Time (UTC+6:30)
Great Coco Island.
Little Coco Island.
Table Island.

The Coco Islands (Burmese: ကိုကိုးကျွန်း) are a small group of islands in the northeastern Indian Ocean. They are part of the Yangon Region of Burma. The Bay of Bengal lies to the west and the Andaman Sea to the east of the islands. The Burmese mainland is 300 kilometres (186 mi) to the north. The island of Preparis lies 77 km (48 mi) to the NNE of the Coco Islands.[1]

The Coco Islands were allegedly leased to the People's Republic of China from 1994.[2] The governments of Burma and the People's Republic of China deny this, and many members of the Burmese military categorically deny any agreement at all.[3]


The Andaman Islands were taken over by the English East India Company in the 18th century. In the 19th century, the British government in India established a penal colony in the Andamans, and the Coco Islands were a source of food for it (mainly coconuts).

Due to the isolation of the Cocos, they were not properly governed, and the British transferred their control to the government of Lower Burma in Rangoon. In 1882 they officially became part of British Burma. When Burma separated from India in 1937 and became a self-governing Crown Colony, they remained Burmese territory. In 1942, along with the rest of the Andaman and Nicobar chain, they were occupied by Japan. When Burma regained its independence from Britain in 1948, the Coco Islands passed to the new Union of Burma.

In 2003, Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes told the BBC that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had ‘donated’ the Coco Islands to Burma in the 1950s, and thus surrendered a vital strategic asset.

In 1959, General Ne Win’s interim military administration established a penal colony on Great Coco Island. After Ne Win’s coup d’etat in 1962, and the installation of a military government, the prison gained the reputation of being a Burmese "Devil’s Island". In 1969, it was enlarged to house an increased number of political prisoners. After a strike, all prisoners on the island were transferred to Rangoon’s Insein Prison in 1971. After the closing of the penal colony, the facilities on Great Coco Island were transferred to the Burmese Navy.

Burmese writer Mya Than Tint was among the people incarcerated at the Coco Islands penal colony.

Reports of a Chinese signal gathering station[edit]

China supposedly established a SIGINT intelligence gathering station on Great Coco Island in 1992 to monitor Indian naval activity in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.[2] The station is also said to allow China to monitor the movement of other navies and ships throughout the eastern Indian Ocean, especially in the crucial point in shipping routes between the Bay of Bengal and the Strait of Malacca.[2] It may also be used to monitor activities at the launch site of the Indian Space Research Organization at Sriharikota and the Defence Research and Development Organization at Chandipur-on-sea. The Chinese Army is also building a maritime base on Little Coco Island.[4]

Existence of the Chinese base has been questioned.[3] In 1998, the United States stated that it had not detected any significant Chinese activity in Burma.[5] India’s Chief of Naval Staff is quoted as saying in October 2005 that India had “firm information that there is no listening post, radar or surveillance station belonging to the Chinese on Coco Islands”.[3][6] In 2014 Air Marshal P. K. Roy, Commander-in-Chief of India's Andaman and Nicobar Command stated that "China has been developing a runway for civilian purposes. There are no reports of presence of Chinese per se. The situation is not alarming". He added that there was only some civilian infrastructural developments which was not a threat to India.[7]


The Coco Islands consist of three main islands:Great Coco Island and the smaller Little Coco Island, separated by the Alexandra Channel, as well as Table Island, a third small island located near Great Coco Island.[8] Geographically they are a part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands archipelago (India) and are separated from North Andaman Island by the 20 kilometres (12 mi) wide Coco Channel.

Great Coco Island[edit]

Great Coco Island (14°07′00″N 93°22′03″E / 14.11667°N 93.36750°E / 14.11667; 93.36750) is approximately 10 km (6.2 mi) long and 2 km (1.2 mi) wide.

Many green turtles nest on the beaches of Great Coco Island. A series of research programs on marine turtle conservation have been conducted by Myanmar's Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development. Data collection on tissue samples of green turtles for population genetic and tagging studies was conducted at Great Coco Island from March 2006 to April 2006. Previously, Great Coco Island had never been surveyed for marine turtle conservation due to its remote location. The survey found an estimated 150 sea turtles nesting and between 90,000 and 100,000 hatchlings and juveniles.

Jerry Island is a 1.1 km (0.7 mi) long islet located off the southern point of Great Coco Island.[9]

Little Coco Island[edit]

Little Coco Island lies 15 km (9.3 mi) to the southwest of Great Coco Island. It is approximately 5 km (3.1 mi) long and 1 km (0.62 mi) wide.

Table Island[edit]

Table Island is located 2.4 km (1.5 mi) to the north of Great Coco Island. The island is a 1.6 km (1.0 mi) long and 1.2 km (0.7 mi) wide. The island previously housed a lighthouse in its NW area but is now uninhabited.[8]

Slipper Island is a 0.4 km (0.2 mi) long islet located off the NW point of Table Island, separated from it by a 0.2 km (0.1 mi) wide sound.[1][10]

Island data[edit]

Island Features Area (km²) Population
Great Coco Island Air strip. Coconut groves. Alleged Chinese SIGINT station 14.57 925
Little Coco Island Coconut groves. 4.44 25
Table Island Lighthouse 1.28 0
Slipper Island 0.078 0
Rat Island 0.015 0
Binnacle Rock 0.009 0
Jerry Island 0.14 0
Coco Islands 20.53 950


The Coco Islands have a tropical monsoon climate (Köppen climate classification Am). Temperatures are very warm throughout the year. There is a winter dry season (December–March) and a summer wet season (April–November). The heaviest rain falls in September, with an average of 761 millimetres (30.0 in) of rain.

Climate data for Coco Islands
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 28.4
Average low °C (°F) 22.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 29
Source: NOAA (1971-1990)[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Prostar Sailing Directions 2005 India & Bay of Bengal Enroute, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
  2. ^ a b c John Pike, [ "Coco Island - Chinese Intelligence Agencies"], Federation of American Scientists.
  3. ^ a b c Selth, Andrew, "Chinese Whispers: The Great Coco Island Mystery", Irrawaddy BurmaNet News, 9 January 2007.
  4. ^ "Intelligence station on Great Coco Island is the most important Chinese electronic intelligence installation in Myanmar". 26 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ V. Pant, Harsh (3 May 2010). "China’s Naval Expansion in the Indian Ocean and India-China Rivalry". The Asia-Pacific Journal. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  7. ^ "'China a strategic partner, not a threat'". Business Standard. 8 February 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Myanmar (Burma)". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  9. ^ Mapcarta - Great Coco Island
  10. ^ GoogleEarth
  11. ^ "Coco Island Climate Normals 1971-1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 

External links[edit]