By James Emery*
General Min Aung Hlaing, the fraudulent leader of Myanmar who initiated the February 2021 coup d’état against Aung San Suu Kyi, may have a short reign at the top. The General’s unethical power grab has decimated the revenues of Myanmar’s Defense Forces, known as the Tatmadaw, along with the revenues of individual Generals, their families, business cronies, and criminal associates.
The Tatmadaw Generals were secure in their ability to exploit Myanmar’s resources and economy. They gained additional wealth through alliances with unsavory developers, business cronies, and criminal groups. The General’s, along with their children and relatives, are set up in a variety of businesses – from construction and manufacturing to nightclubs and restaurants – that prosper from lucrative contracts and favorable terms, doled out by the Tatmadaw junta.
The Tatmadaw’s control of the police and the courts, combined with their ability to block criminal reforms, ensures that the Generals and their families remain extremely wealthy, powerful, and insulated from accountability and prosecution. The Tatmadaw are unfazed by accusations of corruption, conflict of interest, human rights violations, and genocide.
Blinded by his arrogance and ambition, General Min Aung Hlaing recklessly and needlessly undermined the Tatmadaw’s secure and sustainable stranglehold of Myanmar’s economy and government by initiating an ill-advised coup. Consumed by his lust for power and wealth, General Min Aung Hlaing is willfully obtuse and arrogantly indifferent as to the damage he’s done to the Tatmadaw criminal cartel. In addition to reducing their income and commercial opportunities, he’s encouraging criminal investigations, with potential prosecution by international courts.
After the coup, General Min Aung Hlaing, assumed the role of defacto leader under the newly created title, “Chairman of the State Administration Council of Myanmar.” The multimillionaire General initiated the coup because it was the only way he could hold on to power, protect and expand his family’s vast wealth and commercial ventures, and deflect potential prosecution for corruption, human rights violations, and other crimes.
General Min Aung Hlaing faced mandatory retirement from the military when he turned 65 on July 3, 2021. The mandatory age for retirement from the military is 60, but the General was given a five-year extension. He would have been required to transfer the duties of his position as Senior General and commander-in-chief of the Ministry of Defense Services, during June 2021.
Politically ambitious, General Min Aung Hlaing has long-sought the top leadership role in Myanmar. The General knew that he had no chance of winning the revised leadership role of president** through a fair and free election. The Tatmadaw’s political wing, the Union for Development and Solidarity Party (USDP), fared poorly in the 2020 national election. The USDP received just 6.36 percent of the vote, compared to 82.36 percent for the National League for Democracy (NLD), and 11.28 percent for other parties.
General Min Aung Hlaing devised a scheme to take over the government by claiming election fraud by Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the NLD. The accusations were absurd lies, the NLD won a landslide victory in the national elections of 2020, outpolling the USDP by an average of 13 to 1. Virtually the only people that voted for the Tatmadaw were themselves, along with their families and business cronies that benefited from their rule.
The Tatmadaw have staged coups and crushed uprisings several times during the last 50 years, always retaining control of the government and economy, with minimal consequences. The coup d’état of February 1, 2021 may generate a different outcome. It’s already cost the Tatmadaw and their Generals millions of US dollars in lost income from their vast economic empire, with the potential of a US multi-billion-dollar loss during 2021.
Renewed conflicts in Myanmar’s ethnic areas are splintering the county into autonomous states, further disrupting the economy and increasing the carnage. The ethically challenged Tatmadaw Generals are steering Myanmar towards an expanded civil war and a potential failed state. The Tatmadaw may have a brief period of time to stop the violence, remove General Min Aung Hlaing, and reinstall Aung San Suu Kyi, before they cross the line in which they risk losing everything.
As local and international contempt for General Min Aung Hlaing and the Tatmadaw grow, their financial and political losses multiply exponentially, diminishing their grip on the economy and the country. The indefensible coup, combined with the mass incarcerations, torture, and killing of civilians, has generated outrage throughout Myanmar and around the world. Calls for a reversal of the coup are now accompanied by demands for a dismantling and containment of the Tatmadaw.
Increased targeted sanctions and retaliation from the international community can exploit schisms within the Tatmadaw regime. The Tatmadaw’s failure to grasp the gravity of the situation, makes these lead-booted tyrants, self-destructive, potentially taking all of their families and associates down with them. Their survival and sustainability may depend upon them being smart enough to collectively reverse the coup or individually savvy enough to switch sides, prior to the Tatmadaw’s demise.
General Min Aung Hlaing’s ambition and greed has exceeded his stature and capacity. The General became consumed with building and expanding his own personal empire at the expense of other Generals and the Tatmadaw junta. This has made General Min Aung Hlaing a “Marked Man,” surrounded by enemies, including a growing number within the Tatmadaw. The General may be replaced through enhanced intervention or through one of two potential coups.
Why A Coup?
Why-A-Coup sounds like a word from one of the Marx brothers’ movie scripts, but General Min Aung Hlaing’s selfish comedy of errors has lethal consequences. The coup was unnecessary and ill-advised, since the Tatmadaw would have maintained their power and control over the government, economy, and combined Security Forces, in spite of the 2020 landslide victory of the NLD.
It was in the interest of the Tatmadaw to allow and support the illusion of Myanmar being led by a democratically elected government. This encouraged international investment, most of which funneled through companies that were owned or affiliated with the Tatmadaw criminal cartel of Generals and associates.
The civilian government was heavily restricted by the Tatmadaw, due to the revisions to the Myanmar Constitution in 2008. The Tatmadaw’s revisions guaranteed themselves 25 percent of the seats in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union), comprised of the Amyotha Hluttaw (House of Nationalities), the 224-seat upper house and the Pyithu Hluttaw (House of Representatives), the 440-seat lower house. This allows the Tatmadaw to block amendments, legislation, reforms, and policies on crime and corruption, because their 2008 constitution required more than 75 percent of the vote to pass them. The Tatmadaw also control the seats of their proxy party, USDP.
In spite of the NLD’s landslide victory in the national election of 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi was unable to rescind or amend the Tatmadaw’s self-serving constitutional revisions of 2008, during her first term. Efforts to correct the flawed constitution were blocked by the Tatmadaw, utilizing the excessive and unwarranted power granted them by these revisions. The NLD’s landslide victory of 2020 would have faced the same circular restrictions. The Tatmadaw would block all attempts of the NLD to revise the constitution, pass amendments, initiate reforms, address crime and corruption, and increase accountability and transparency. Criminal nirvana for the Tatmadaw.
The Tatmadaw’s grip on all facets of Myanmar’s government, economy, and Defense Forces was secure. They could rely upon the status quo, with them controlling the country, while the 2020 election provided the illusion of a functioning democracy.
This arrangement was in the best interest of the Tatmadaw regime’s economic empire, and the individual Generals, their relatives, business cronies, and criminal associates. The status quo meant increasingly more contracts, revenues, and profits for all of them, while maintaining their capacity to deflect accountability, transparency, criminal reforms, and indictments. The illusion of limited democracy provided the Tatmadaw with a veiled respectability. This facade provided supportive regimes and business associates with plausible ignorance and deniability regarding the Tatmadaw’s repressive policies and human rights violations.
General Min Aung Hlaing, consumed by his obsession to take control of Myanmar, pulled down the Tatmadaw’s facade, meant to cloak their brutal repression, while stealing the country’s wealth and resources. General Min Aung Hlaing is delusional in thinking that he will ever be perceived as anything but a self-absorbed tyrant, who fraudulently stole his position.
The 2021 Coup Generated Widespread Protests
In addition to General Min Aung Hlaing’s blatant theft of the election and brutal repression of protesters, there are additional reasons why anti-coup factions have such widespread participation and support.
Myanmar’s population had the opportunity to experience ten years of limited democracy, providing a stark contrast and comparison to the oppressive Tatmadaw regimes prior to 2011 and since the February coup of 2021. This has intensified and expanded the anti-coup movement throughout Myanmar, inclusive of virtually all demographics, including ethnicity, age, religion, education, occupation, social class, urban-rural locations, and other factors. Myanmar is more united in this uprising, than previous ones, generating huge turnouts and support for ongoing protests and rallies.
The population of Myanmar had a decade of limited freedom and democracy, they’ll resist being forced back into the darkness of deprivation and denial that accompanies domination by the Tatmadaw. The younger generation of Myanmar protesters grew up within a limited democracy, making the harsh, post-coup policies of the Tatmadaw more repugnant and unacceptable. Being too young to be cynical, these youthful protesters have added creative forms of expression and commitment to the ongoing protests.
Government administrators, teachers, medical practitioners, students, merchants, tradesmen, laborers, ethnic armies, and an expansive spectrum of people and professions are marching in unison in protest against General Min Aung Hlaing’s illegitimate coup d’état and the Tatmadaw’s oppressive policies. The depth and breadth of participation for the anti-coup movement has increased their public and political support around the world.
The Tatmadaw Economic Empire in Peril
The Tatmadaw’s economic empire generates US multi-billion dollars in monthly revenues. The jade industry alone, produces over US$31 billion annually. The collective Tatmadaw junta – along with individual Generals and their relatives, business cronies, and criminal associates – dominate and control Myanmar’s legal and illegal economies. Myanmar, like Pakistan and other countries, allow Generals to blur the lines between their military duty and their predatory, capitalistic exploitation of their respective country’s resources, manufacturing, imports, and other business interests.
The Tatmadaw operate two large conglomerates, Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL). Individual military officers can buy into these firms, with the number of shares they can obtain increasing with their rank. Tatmadaw leaders and associates have collected billions of US dollars on lumber, jade, and other commodities by driving out indigenous tribal populations. Additionally, Tatmadaw Generals and their associates are provided with monopolistic control of specific imported consumer goods.
Individual Generals, along with their children and relatives, have full or partial ownership in many firms, elevating them to the ranks of the wealthy elite. In addition to their quasi-legitimate business holdings, many of the Generals and their relatives benefit from no bid contracts, unethical business arrangements, and profitable alliances with unsavory business cronies and criminal networks.
The Generals have become quite prosperous, especially General Min Aung Hlaing, whose immense personal fortune makes him one of the wealthiest men in Myanmar. The General has used his power and influence to place family members into lucrative businesses, expanding his family’s vast economic holdings. The Tatmadaw’s profiteering across businesses and industries in Myanmar during the last 60 years has generated a staggering amount of wealth. Generals become rich, due to generous stock options, unscrupulous profiteering, and numerous other financial schemes. The Tatmadaw junta benefits from their firm control of the government, the economy, the police, and the courts, along with their ability to incarcerate or kill their critics.
The coup changed all this. General Min Aung Hlaing disrupted the lucrative arrangements of the Generals and their families and associates. He’s also jeopardizing their future control of their wealth and business enterprises, while potentially removing their implicit immunity from prosecution for corruption, human rights violations, and other crimes.
Responsibility to Protect
The United Nations World Summit of 2005 issued the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP or R2P) document to address the issues of crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. The intent was to ensure that the international community never fails to act to stop these horrific human rights violations.
Ivan Šimonović, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect, states:
“At the 2005 World Summit, all Heads of State and Government affirmed the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The responsibility to protect rests upon three pillars of equal standing: the responsibility of each State to protect its populations (pillar I); the responsibility of the international community to assist States in protecting their populations (pillar II); and the responsibility of the international community to protect when a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations (pillar III). The adoption of the principle in 2005 constituted a solemn commitment, which included much expectation of a future free of these crimes.”
There have been calls for the UN Security Council (UNSC) to initiate a plan of action to address the post-coup violence and oppression in Myanmar. However, as UNSC members, China and Russia can veto such attempts. Additionally, in the 16 years since R2P was enacted, the Tatmadaw have been actively engaged in crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. These egregious and ongoing violations are well-documented, but nothing was done to stop them. The Tatmadaw continue to ignore international criticism and attempts for accountability.
Military intervention in Myanmar under R2P, including a UN peacekeeping mission, is dangerous and unlikely. The Tatmadaw would be vehemently against it, China and Russia would veto UNSC actions, and the placement of UN peacekeepers would have no clear mission or end game. The best way to decimate the Tatmadaw is through intense targeted sanctions, coupled with internal measures that will enhance the strength of rival ethnic armies, encourage mini coups and desertions within Myanmar Defense Forces, and facilitate a final coup d’état to remove the top-tier Generals and kingpins of the Tatmadaw junta, replacing them with the Aung San Suu Kyi and the democratically elected civilian government.
A Compromise, a Coup, or a Corpse
General Min Aung Hlaing and the Tatmadaw junta are following a predictable course to sustain their illegitimate control of Myanmar. According to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma, since the February coup, the Tatmadaw have killed 881 people and arrested 6,435, with 5,210 still incarcerated as of 30 June 2021. These numbers increase weekly. Thousands more have been beaten, shot, or displaced. Journalist, NLD members, anti-coup organizers, medical practitioners, teachers, and others, are targeted by the Tatmadaw for beatings and incarceration. The junta, looking to deflect international sanctions, announced they would release some prisoners in July.
The Tatmadaw have relied upon a combination of intimidation, violence, incarceration, and torture to counter protesters, in addition to targeted killings of NLD officials and anti-coup leaders. China and Russia block UN attempts at sanctions, while being the top two arms exporters to Myanmar, supplying the Tatmadaw with all the weapons and ammunition they want.
Predictably, the Tatmadaw banned the NLD, making it ineligible to participate in future elections. Since the NLD garnered more than 13 times the number of votes as the USDP, banning the NLD was the only way a Tatmadaw candidate had a chance at winning an election. Voter turnout is extremely light when the NLD is prohibited from participating, effectively negating the will of 82 percent of the population.
In another move, the Tatmadaw eliminated all age restrictions for the Generals, who have been oppressing and exploiting Myanmar – politically and economically. The gluttonous Generals can now serve until they collapse or retire. Perhaps, they’ll sustain themselves with a cocktail of blood, formaldehyde, and Johnnie Walker scotch. General Min Aung Hlaing will strive to remain Dictator for Life, if he survives the coup.
The only hope for Myanmar is for the international community to initiate a series of extreme measures to metaphorically buckle the knees and sever the heads of the Tatmadaw hierarchy. Given the Tatmadaw’s ongoing crimes against humanity, nothing should be withheld in the way of countermeasures, until the Tatmadaw junta capitulates or is destroyed.
It is essential that the international community use finely-tuned targeted sanctions against the Tatmadaw regime and individual Generals, along with their relatives, business associates, criminal collaborators, and others tied to their economic empire. Using general sanctions against authoritarian regimes and military juntas is not effective. The general approach dilutes the impact upon the primary targets, enabling tyrants to maneuver around them, exploiting their adversaries’ lack of focus and skill.
General sanctions – including restrictions on the import of food and grains, medical supplies, and other staples – hurt the respective population far worse than the leaders and their associates. The ruling elite have extensive reserves and access, enabling them to ignore the sanctions, while the population suffers and starves.
General sanctions have been used against countries, with the knowledge that they have a disproportionate and detrimental impact upon the population. In these scenarios, their intent is to increase the suffering of the population to the point that they rise up, initiating an insurrection or a coup that removes the current leaders. This ethically questionable approach has had mixed results. In some cases, protesters or insurgents – who have no chance of winning – are encouraged to revolt for the political points that protests generate in embarrassing the targeted regime, especially when civilian blood and corpses litter the streets.
Targeted economic sanctions against the regime – and specific players and associates – are much more effective. The intensity of these strikes can often be ramped up with little or no detrimental impact upon the general population. Intensive, targeted pressure, combined with other maneuvers, can bring down a regime, eliminating and/or flipping their political and military leaders until it collapses by way of a coup or capitulation.
Targeted sanctions can go well beyond collective and individual economic objectives. Everything is in play. Whatever it takes to break individuals, cells, networks, corporations, or regimes can be used. Having comprehensive profiles on all of the individual and group targets, enables core components and vulnerabilities to be identified and attacked with a laser-like focus on the objectives. Utilizing link analysis, trigger points, and other tools can significantly diminish or destroy essential networks and cells, further isolating and weakening the primary targets.
Tracking the Tatmadaw’s legal and illegal business operations will help identify the firms working with them, along with the key executives in those firms. Their public exposure can encourage condemnation, indictments, and prosecution by their respective governments, assisted by international coalitions and courts that focus on human rights violations and other criminal activity. In time, most of the Tatmadaw’s assets can be frozen and the financial pipelines from their legal and illegal enterprises, reduced or eliminated. However, there may be a capitulation or a coup before that occurs.
Numerous reports provide details on Tatmadaw business holdings, alliances with domestic and international firms, weapons suppliers, and other information. This will help identify specific targets – in Myanmar and around the world – for sanctions, indictments, exposure, public condemnation, boycotts, and special operations.
In August 2019, a UN International Independent Fact-Finding Mission (UNFFM) on Myanmar issued a 110-page report on the military’s vast network of companies and alliances. The report includes five annexes that list foreign and domestic businesses that provide revenue, resources, and supplies to the Tatmadaw for ongoing operations.
The report identified 59 foreign firms operating in Myanmar that have ties to the Tatmadaw, including 15 that have joint ventures with MEC and MEHL and 44 with business agreements. The UN report notes that Tatmadaw profits from commercial ties with domestic and international firms is funding the vast human rights abuses and genocide carried out against ethnic groups in Myanmar.
Given the widespread media coverage and public awareness of the atrocities taking place in Myanmar, the companies dealing with the Tatmadaw are knowingly and deliberately supporting rape, torture, murder, and other human rights abuses. This makes these firms – along with their executives – accomplices in ethnic cleansing, human rights violations, war crimes, and genocide.
If these unsavory firms fail to sever their ties with the Tatmadaw, they and their executives should be investigated, indicted, and prosecuted within their own countries, and by international agencies and courts. These tainted firms should be condemned, sanctioned, and boycotted, throughout the world, ensuring that their losses outweigh the revenues they get from their immoral alliances with the Tatmadaw. In addition to criminal indictments and boycotts, the corporate allies of the Tatmadaw will see their firm’s reputation irrevocably sullied by the blood and carnage from the brutal repression and atrocities they’re supporting in Myanmar.
Raising the Stakes
The Tatmadaw’s economic empire, should face unconditional attacks, disruptions, and targeted sanctions to obliterate their collective and personal revenue sources. The objective is to financially gut the Tatmadaw regime, along with all of the Generals, their families, business cronies, and criminal associates. Some exceptions should be made to avoid excessive economic harm to the population, but the wealth, security, and capacity of the Tatmadaw junta, and all of the Generals and their families, should be top priorities for obliteration and seizure.
Comprehensive packets can provide expansive, detailed profiles on each of the targeted Generals and their respective family members. Their income and wealth should be stifled and seized, their strengths compromised, and their vulnerabilities exploited. The Tatmadaw criminal cartel should face the full capacity of an international coalition, whose objective is their utter destruction – financially, psychologically, and physically.
Political and economic sanctions, criminal investigations, and an infinite number of special operations and dirty tricks can be initiated to specifically target the Tatmadaw – and each of the Generals and their extended families – with precision strikes. The approach and mindset should be one of “Total Economic and Psychological War” that will force the Tatmadaw junta and their cronies to capitulate or face certain annihilation. The eradication of individual and collective Tatmadaw should continue until they give up or break, leaving only their oil slicks and the stench of their prior existence.
The Rule of Law for Tyrants and Their Accomplices
The United Nations Security Council has the power to refer human rights violators to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution. However, China and Russia, as members of the UNSC, can block these motions.
The UNSC should draft and initiate criminal referrals against the Tatmadaw junta, and the countries and companies supporting their sordid crimes. If China or Russia choose to veto and block ICC initiatives, make them do it on the record, so there is irrefutable evidence of their support of the Tatmadaw criminal cartel. The international community can aggressively target China and Russia – and other countries that support the Tatmadaw – with an assortment of economic and political consequences.
Criminal investigations, prosecutions, sanctions, fines, and other penalties against Tatmadaw Generals, along with their complicit relatives and business associates, should be initiated within their respective countries and through regional and international agencies and courts. The objective is to decimate the Tatmadaw hierarchy and dismantle their economic empire, including MEC and MEHL, severing the Tatmadaw criminal cartel’s control.
The Tatmadaw claim they are the guardians of Myanmar, protecting the county and the people from all enemies – foreign and domestic. This false narrative is used to justify massive human rights violations and corruption. The Tatmadaw junta hype this false narrative to incite the military and police to commit horrific atrocities against the population in the name of protecting them from themselves.
Ethnic populations are repeatedly subjected to attacks and commercial clearing operations so the greedy Generals can seize and sell their land and resources. These operations encourage terror tactics, including rape, torture, mutilation, murder, and other crimes against men, women, and children. General Min Aung Hlaing was especially vicious in his military operations against ethnic populations, and proud of it.
The Tatmadaw Generals claim they are the saviors and safeguards of Myanmar. They proclaim that all of their actions are for the country and the population, regardless of how heinous, self-serving, and unjustifiable they are. By Tatmadaw logic, their vicious, documented rapes and gang rapes of females between the ages of 7 to 70 are done to protect the sanctity of virginity. These rabid Tatmadaw dogs are a scourge on Myanmar and the Rule of Law. It will require superior force and ruthless determination by the international community to reign them in.
GPS tracking devices and similar technology can help locate targeted Generals, along with tainted relatives, business associates, and criminal connections. The use of drones can be helpful in verifying their identity and location to serve them with indictments or a lethal notice of termination.
Weapons and Support for Myanmar’s Ethnic Armies
It’s unwise to allow vicious, rabid dogs to run loose among humans. The same can be said for Myanmar and the Tatmadaw. Unless the Tatmadaw remove General Min Aung Hlaing, restore Aung San Suu Kyi to her rightful position, free all political prisoners, and rescind all of their self-serving 2008 modification to the Myanmar constitution, then the opposing international forces should provide weapons, equipment, supplies, and support to all of the ethnic armies and insurgency cells fighting the Tatmadaw.
It can be argued that this could intensify the civil war. The reality is that the ethnic communities have been tortured, raped, mutilated, and killed by the Tatmadaw during the last 73 years, as have the rest of Myanmar, especially during prior coups and uprisings. These killings and human rights violations will continue into infinity, unless the Tatmadaw junta are destroyed or effectively neutered and contained.
China, Russia, and other countries and corporations continue to support the Tatmadaw for self-serving, economic and political reasons. A primary driver for this support is the strength, size, and reputation of the Tatmadaw Security Forces, and their vastly superior arsenal of weapons, compared to ethnic armies and the population.
China, Russia, and other regimes are betting that battalions of well-armed, Tatmadaw thugs will decimate poorly armed, ethnic armies and anti-coup factions. They expect that the coup will be sustained, with the Tatmadaw junta in complete charge of Myanmar for decades to come. These supportive tyrannical regimes know that the Tatmadaw’s promise of “fair and free elections” in the future is simply a ruse, meant to provide an excuse for countries not to challenge the coup. Besides, with the NLD banned, even if elections are held in years to come, it’s a bit like holding an election in which only one candidate runs for each national office.
Providing extensive armaments, technology, training, and support to ethnic armies and anti-Tatmadaw factions will significantly change the odds, increasing internal schisms, defections, revolts, and coups that splinter the Tatmadaw from within. If China, Russia, and other countries continue to support the Tatmadaw, they are choosing to play the short game, alienating the population of Myanmar to the point they could be obstructed or excluded from having future influence in the country.
Sacrificing the long game is foolish strategy that China will avoid. China is afraid of increased and prolonged chaos and instability in Myanmar that threatens their extensive investments and regional objectives. The China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) is part of China’s immense Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), meant to greatly enhance China’s economic and political influence and objectives in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
There have been continuous anti-China protests in Myanmar since February, along with limited attacks on Chinese investments. If China continues to support the Tatmadaw – to the detriment of Myanmar’s anti-coup factions – then everything connected to China and CMEC may be targeted, disrupted, and destroyed, including the vital natural gas pipeline between Myanmar and China. The BRI is China’s strategic long game of global conquest. They won’t risk undermining it to provide unconditional support to the Tatmadaw if it appears that opposing forces will dislodge the junta or force a stalemate that ensures prolonged instability and conflict.
Well-armed ethnic armies and anti-coup factions can encourage China and Russia to significantly diminish their support for the Tatmadaw, facilitating the demise of General Min Aung Hlaing and his renegade Tatmadaw cohorts. The threat of an enhanced civil war, in which all of the insurgent groups are heavily armed and supported – in an equal or superior way to the Tatmadaw – will enable them to destroy or displace Myanmar’s oppressive military, police, and militias. In addition to its own merits of seizing territory and uprooting the Tatmadaw, an insurrection of this magnitude will trigger internal schisms, coups, defections, and other actions that can topple the Tatmadaw regime.
General Min Aung Hlaing – the Brutal Butcher of Burma – is in the crosshairs for elimination, with enemies on all sides, including angry Tatmadaw Generals, whose income, wealth, and power he has needlessly undermined. Little Min Aung Hlaing’s lust for power clouded his capacity to see how his personal and self-serving coup d’état could devastate the previously unrestricted power, wealth, and sustainability of the Tatmadaw regime. General Min Aung Hlaing’s selfish motives are transparent to everyone, including Tatmadaw Generals and their unsavory business associates and criminal cohorts. The General’s actions could cost the Tatmadaw criminal cartel billions of US dollars during 2021. It could also lead to their downfall.
In addition to the financial losses, General Min Aung Hlaing has substantially increased international scrutiny of the Tatmadaw, the Generals, and all of their associates. Criminal indictments for all of them could be forthcoming, with the potential for prosecutions, incarcerations, and seizure of assets.
General Min Aung Hlaing has flaunted his reputation as, “the man that no one can control.” The unruly, egocentric leader of a criminal syndicate. The General’s extreme arrogance and ambition has made him a serious threat to the sustainability of the Tatmadaw regime. General Min Aung Hlaing is the Tatmadaw’s biggest impediment in their ability to retain their dominant control of Myanmar’s government, economy, and Security Forces.
The Tatmadaw Generals have used their position, power, influence, and intimidation to create feudal-like economic empires around themselves and their families. Facing the personal loss of millions of US dollars – with the looming prospect of a loss of power, wealth, and freedom – the Generals may initiate another coup d’état as a means of self-preservation. They’ll remove General Min Aung Hlaing and either restore Aung San Suu Kyi (if the Tatmadaw DNA allows it) or release Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD members, with the promise to hold an election during 2021 or as soon as the fighting stops. The Tatmadaw could use this option as a means of quelling the increased violence from ethnic armies and insurgent groups.
The Tatmadaw will likely allow General Min Aung Hlaing to retire with all of his wealth, but they might turn on him, killing the General and his family for all the problems he caused, and seizing his family’s extensive assets to compensate themselves for their losses.
The Tatmadaw include three primary military branches – army, navy, and air force. They also control the police, border affairs, frontier forces, and militias that are aligned with the Tatmadaw. It’s estimated that less than fifty percent of the Tatmadaw Security Forces are fully loyal and committed, based upon their composition, recruiting methods, treatment and morale, and independent research and interviews. Many security personnel continue to carry out their duties, solely due to fear of retribution against themselves and their families.
Myanmar Security Forces are historically understaffed, due to the paltry pay, horrific treatment, and sullied reputation of the Tatmadaw. The ranks are filled with recruits that were pressured or forced to join. Thousands of these are children or others that are unfit for military duty. They have no love, nor loyalty for the Tatmadaw. The various frontier forces are comprised of ethnic recruits, many of whom have been brutally oppressed by the Tatmadaw, and had fought against them prior to a negotiated truce. Their allegiance to the Tatmadaw is temporary and conditional.
In order to generate significant revolts and coups within the Tatmadaw hierarchy, the ethnic armies and anti-coup forces should be armed and supported at levels that will ensure their success. There are many moving parts that come into play – information operations to insurgency maneuvers – that will incite rebellions within Tatmadaw forces throughout Myanmar. Many Tatmadaw personnel and affiliates have a desire to revolt – encouraged by the depth and breadth of the countercoup movement – but they need to feel confident of its success, before initiating revolts and joining the anti-coup coalition.
Providing significant weapons, equipment, supplies, and support to ethnic armies and insurgent groups countering the Tatmadaw has multiple benefits. In addition to defeating and demoralizing Tatmadaw forces, their victories and strength can encourage numerous defections, coups, and revolts throughout Myanmar’s military, police, frontier militias, and border guards. Some of these units will eliminate the non-supportive officers and other Tatmadaw loyalists within their ranks – and join the insurgents – surrendering their compounds and all of their weapons and supplies.
Clandestine and traditional radio broadcasts and other Information Operations and PSYOP can spread the news about ongoing coups, Tatmadaw defeats, and defections, to people throughout Myanmar, the region, and the world. These broadcasts and operations, along with other activities and reports, will encourage more military, police, and militia units to revolt, defect, or desert.
More Motives for the Bottom-Up Coup
The Myanmar Security Forces are deeply divided by class and plagued by low morale. The Generals operate like feudal kings, primarily focused on enriching themselves and their relatives, while enlisted personnel are paid and treated shabbily. Enlisted personnel are subjected to bullying, beatings, deprivations, and unjust rules and retribution, creating battalions of compliant, robotic troops, seething with pent-up rage and fury at the injustices and inequities they endure.
The Generals and their relatives and associates steal Myanmar’s wealth, skim profits from Tatmadaw business holdings, and cut deals with narcotics traffickers, human traffickers, unsavory developers, and other criminal groups. The Generals sell licenses and access to Myanmar’s natural resources, using terror tactics to drive out indigenous populations so they and their cronies can seize and sell the timber, jade, and other natural resources.
The Generals order the Security Forces to burn and destroy villages and commit horrific atrocities, including torture, mutilation, rape, and murder against ethnic populations during commercial clearing operations. The high levels of rage, abuse, and frustration within the ranks of the Myanmar Defense Forces is channeled into increased violence against civilians, including men, women, and children. The Generals steal US billions of dollars, leaving their soldiers, militias, and police to loot homes and shops in villages and towns for their rewards, which includes supplementing their meager food rations.
Myanmar and the Tatmadaw are a country and a military that are in dire need of a coup d’état to oust the sordid cartel of unscrupulous Generals, gut the cronies and criminals attached to the Tatmadaw, and restore the democratically elected civilian leaders to their rightful positions.
The chronic disparity and abuse within the Tatmadaw Security Forces, combined with the illegal coup and ongoing violence against civilians, has motivated officers and enlisted personnel to consider coups within their respective units. Many more will join a coup-d’état against General Min Aung Hlaing and the Tatmadaw hierarchy, if they have enhanced support from ethnic armies and other players, with a probability of success.
The final coup will topple the Tatmadaw junta, leaving the Generals and their families and associates scurrying like cockroaches when the light of liberty and retribution is turned on. The Generals and other deviants can be rounded up, indicted, and prosecuted for their excessive corruption, human rights abuses, and other crimes. Their illicit wealth can be seized to rebuild Myanmar’s infrastructure and provide programs for the population.
Retaliation and Removal
General Min Aung Hlaing’s alliances include legitimate and illegal business enterprises, developers, and entrepreneurs. The unscrupulous General also has alliances with criminal organizations.
The coup, chaos, protests, and incarcerations – coupled with excessive Tatmadaw murders and violence towards unarmed civilians – has drastically disrupted the operations and revenues of all of the General’s peers and associates, along with the majority of businesses in Myanmar. In addition to losing millions of US dollars monthly, the brutality and turmoil has drawn significant attention and scrutiny of Tatmadaw companies, alliances, and criminal operations.
The unsavory, Tatmadaw-linked firms and criminal organizations that have prospered from illegal and unethical tactics, may find their unprincipled operations and business advantages compromised by intense scrutiny and investigations. This could lead to a loss of income and access, with the potential for criminal indictments, incarceration, and seizure of assets.
There are US billions of dollars at stake. These corporate and criminal fiefdoms have the motivation and the capacity to strike back in order to protect their power and wealth. For most of them, their target will be the self-absorbed tyrant that caused all these problems, General Min Aung Hlaing.
These corrupt cells will not bother with indictments, subpoenas or depositions. They don’t operate that way. They’ll simply eliminate General Min Aung Hlaing and anyone else who’s ambition and greed needlessly disrupted the financially lucrative and sustainable status-quo that existed prior to the February 2021 coup d’état. The General’s family might also be eliminated; a calculated move to rip out the roots along with the weed.
Other Generals that helped initiate the coup or refuse to compromise, by ending the coup and restoring stability, may find themselves targeted for elimination or removal. If this breaks, it will generate a groundswell of support, as all of the Tatmadaw’s enemies strive to decapitate the demons that have been the scourge of Myanmar. The Tatmadaw have been a plague upon the population of Myanmar for decades. When the combined civilians, insurgent armies, and side-switching Defense Forces rise up to eradicate the plague of the junta, many will also call for the elimination of the human equivalents of the rats and infected fleas, to reduce the prospect of future plagues.
Ne Win, the Burmese military officer, who initiated the Myanmar coup of 1962, was obsessed with astrology and numerology. The Chinese zodiac year of the Rat concluded on February 11, 2021. The total date is a “9” (2+2+5) in numerology, signifying an ending and transition. The “Rat” is General Min Aung Hlaing. His insatiable ambition obscured his willingness and capacity to consider anyone but himself. His unjustified, illogical coup d’état may punctuate the ending and transition from the Year of the Rat, as his reign ends and the transition to Aung San Suu Kyi begins.
General Min Aung Hlaing was born in the year of the Monkey. In the Chinese zodiac, this is followed by the year of the Rooster, which coincidently is Aung San Suu Kyi’s Chinese zodiac sign. A symbolic gesture to the impending removal of General Min Aung Hlaing and the transition to Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the national democratic election of 2020 by a landslide. The reign of General Min Aung Hlaing, the repugnant reptilian with a gecko’s call to his critics, may finally come to an end.
Closure and Renewal
General Min Aung Hlaing, the self-absorbed despot, covered the front of his uniform with dubious medals and ribbons, similar to Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, and other tyrannical leaders, who failed to grasp that undeserved decorations were a poor substitute for leadership skills and integrity. If Little Min wanted to create the appearance that he was a bigger man, he should have bought boots and shoes with thicker heels.
General Min Aung Hlaing, whom a UN report referred to as, “one of the most wanted men on earth,” after he orchestrated the genocide of the Rohingya in 2017, may finally suffer the consequences of his chronic treachery, corruption, and violence. The General is a “Marked Man.” It appears that the prospect of his sudden downfall or elimination is no longer a question of “if,” but one of “when” and “how.” Odds are in play as to which of his enemies will take him out and what month his removal takes place.
The suggestions in this article, and my prior article – “Revoking the Coup in Myanmar” – can significantly elevate the international response to the unlawful coup d’état. Enhanced, targeted measures have the potential to inflict devastating consequences to the Tatmadaw regime, the Generals, and their families and business associates. They may also encourage the Tatmadaw to take action, reversing the coup to cut their losses.
The Tatmadaw will not capitulate from the current sanctions and motions that are in play. Their legacy of dominance and sustainability leave many of them psychologically incapable of considering capitulation or defeat. This is why it is essential that the international community use targeted sanctions and special operations to repeatedly attack, decimate, and destroy Tatmadaw resistance.
In addition to the recommendations in my articles, the Tatmadaw – and its Generals and associates – have fault lines, pressure points, and ingrained obstacles that can be identified and exploited to erode core, capacity, power, and will. These measures are best covered through alternative methods of dissemination.
The breadth and depth of force that breaks the Tatmadaw must exceed their will and capacity to resist. Firmly establishing the certainty of their utter annihilation will cause some Generals, Tatmadaw officials, and associates to break ranks to save themselves and their families. This should be solicited, encouraged, and rewarded.
The Tatmadaw economic empire, including MEC and MEHL, should be dismantled, severing all of their links, profits, and control. The Tatmadaw regime – along with the Generals and their relatives, business cronies, and criminal associates – should be prevented from having any control over Myanmar’s government, economy, courts, or other sectors. Even their power over the military, police, militias, and other units should be reduced and subject to civilian control.
Democratically elected civilians should have full control and power over all aspects of Myanmar’s pivotal institutions that have been chronically abused, exploited, and sullied by unscrupulous Tatmadaw regimes. The Tatmadaw criminal cartel needs to be dismantled and restructured. The Tatmadaw have proven time and again that they are ethically and morally bankrupt, eternally engaged in the rape, torture, and murder of civilians, and incapable of accountability, transparency, or reform.
The removal of the Tatmadaw hierarchy will add much-needed credibility to future UN and international attempts to stifle other repressive regimes and cells. If there are no significant consequences for committing crimes against humanity and genocide, the demonic tyrants that initiate them will not be deterred. History has shown that pacifying or tolerating despicable tyrants, cells, or regimes, empowers them – from the Nazi’s and the Tatmadaw to ISIS and others. The world has the resources and capacity to contain or destroy these scourges on humanity, but it appears to lack the implicit skill, will, and clarity of purpose that are essential in constructing highly effective coalitions and operations to decimate these sordid scoundrels.
A coalition should be formed to address Myanmar that establishes core criteria with flexibility to increase regional and international participation. Building a highly effective alliance should focus on selecting leaders and staff who have the essential core traits, knowledge, experience, proficiency, and motivation. They need the capability to engage and enlist other sectors – globally – to construct finely-tuned, comprehensive strategies and operations to achieve desired results. Overly-ambitious egotists, intellectually and ethically challenged opportunists, and bureaucratic backstabbers and buffoons should be excluded. They’re more toxic and disruptive than the enemy. These operations require exceptional leaders and highly skilled, team players, with a collective commitment to the success of the mission.
General Min Aung Hlaing fabricated criminal charges against Aung San Suu Kyi to justify his illegal coup d’état. The General, who is insanely jealous of her immense following and support, wants to neutralize his chief adversary. The Tatmadaw’s dubious kangaroo court will likely convict Aung San Suu Kyi on trumped-up changes to make her ineligible to hold political office.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday was June 19th. She is 76-years-old. The Tatmadaw junta are keenly aware of the potential age and health issues that can diminish her ability to participate in the next scheduled presidential election. Even if she were eligible, her capacity and stamina could be significantly reduced. This makes it imperative that the UN and international coalitions initiate strong measures to reverse the coup and restore Aung San Suu Kyi to her elected office, during 2021.
I suggest reading my 5,600-word article “Revoking the Coup in Myanmar,” published 3 April 2021 in the Eurasia Review. It’s loaded with information on the Tatmadaw criminal cartel and suggestions to reverse the coup.
** The position of Prime Minister was created in 1948, with the formation of Burma. It was eliminated in 2011, when the function of president was elevated to serve as the head of state and the head of government. When Aung San Suu Kyi won the national election in 2015, she was given the title of State Counselor of Myanmar. She was prevented from holding the title of president by the revised constitution of 2008 that prohibited candidates with foreign spouses from becoming president.
*James Emery, a cultural anthropologist, has coved issues around the world. He has traveled into Myanmar through Yangon and in cross-border trips to ethnic tribal territories to conduct interviews and research on insurgency operations, narcotics trafficking, human rights abuses, and other issues. He may be contacted at [email protected]