What Is The Mentality Of The Myanmar Tatmadaw? – OpEd


Covid 19, originating from the home of Tatmadaw’s stepfather has been ravaging the world, is now making its presence felt in Burma with 178 cases, of six deaths and 68 recoveries,(according to the health ministry data), compelling the patriotic freedom fighters of Arakan, and Tang for a truce with the marauding Tatmadaw, but the latter categorically refused to do so and instead declared its own unilateral ceasefire over the whole country except where the fighting is the thickest in Arakan, and Tang areas, depicting to the whole world the insincerity of its moves.

This move raised the basic question of whether the Tatmadaw is anathema to the Union of the country or to Liberal Democracy, not to mention Federalism which the martyred founding fathers had inked in 1947, even before the country gained independence from Britain. One thing is sure, not a single man in uniform comprehend of what is Unity in Diversity. Hence, it is of no wonder that entire history of modern Burma was fraught with infighting of the Myanmar over the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities whose combine population is almost double that of Myanmar.

The very fact that the Myanmar nationalists leaders has dreamt of a great nation in Southeast Asia with, one religion (Buddhist), one race (Myanmar) and one country (Burma) standing tall in the international community is similar to somewhat like the Americans did to the natives (red Indians now known as first nations) or what the Normans did to the Saxons of old Britain who later became English and world leaders. What more authenticated proof was needed, when even in the land mark Panglong Conference of 1947, Mon and the Arakanese were not invited in the forming of the Union of Burma because they were and are treated as a conquered race, a fait accompli of Myanmar?

The word Myanma Tatmadaw literally translated, in exclusively Burmese means the Imperial Myanmar Army, that has no place for the other non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities such as Shan, Chin, Kachin, Karen Mon, Rakhine etc. These non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities are welcome to join them but only as a cannon folder, an underdog and that is why no non Myanmar ethnic person had risen above the position of colonel in the Tatmadaw

It is a fact that Myanmar army has ravage the country since its military coup of 1962, dragging the country to the least developed status in the international community and continue holding power under the pretext of various different administrations, so much so, that it loath to give up power now. Even the other fundamentalist jihadist groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban or Al Shabaab, are civilized enough to adhere to the clarion call of the Coronavirus danger but the Myanma Tatmadaw, (the only Buddhist army) has refused to do so, as their lust for power is so immense that they are unable to comprehend any raison d’être to stop fighting tarnishing not only the Myanmar race but also the most peaceful religion of the world.

However, the Tatmadaw think tanks are very cunning, for as soon as the civilian counter part of NLD formed the 21 member committee to combat Covid 19, the Myanmar Tatmadaw followed suit by forming its own rival team but with better resources and setting up a lab tests using a machine with capacity to process 200 samples per day at a 300-bed military hospital just constructed in eastern Shan State’s Kengtung, under the Triangle Command. It also declared a unilateral ceasefire with the already agreed non-Myanmar ethnic groups, while concentrating its guns on the Arakanese and Tang, a clear “Divide and Rule” strategy, as well as to portray itself as a benefactor of the country, a sort of a double sword. It is headed by former First Vice President General Myint Swe, a notorious butcher of the monks in the 2007 Buddhist-monk led “Saffron Revolution.”

Then on the Ides of March it designated the AA as a terrorist organization. With this action it is clear that the Tatmadaw is now effectively back in the driver’s seat and no longer restricted in exercising power from behind a quasi-democratic façade of Daw Suu Kyi’s NLD administration. “The Tatmadaw seems to see COVID 19 as an opportunity to commit more abuses while the world is distracted,” the UN official said, and It seems that what Cardinal Bo, on the 9th May wrote seems to be true when he says, “Myanmar Military commanders believe that their weapons are more powerful than this virus, and continue to expose their soldiers, continuously endangering civilians and risk a conflagration of contagion among the people of their nations,” 

The fact that Tatmadaw continued dominance was institutionalized by its “roadmap to democracy” by its fraudulent and manipulated current 2008 Nargis Constitution which allots a quarter of the seats in both houses of Parliament to them, makingthe civilian control of the military out of question. Its, continuous elimination of democratic forces since 7th July 1962 couple with substantive involvement in the national economy, and a longstanding centre management policy of seven decades that was able to eliminate the Sangha in the Saffron Revolution in 2007 made them second to none. Obviously they will never give up their privilege position.

Even now Tatmadaw, with its “Four Cuts” strategy—targeting food, funds, intelligence, and recruiting with a military strength totalling 25,000 troops, couple with coordinated air strikes, and the largest ever deployment of the Myanmar Navy is tantamount to ethnic cleansing of the Arakanese, adhering to their metaphor “Kill the Arakanese before killing the viper” and displacing over 157,000 people and hundreds of Arakanese civilian deaths. 

In Burma, where the law of the jungle always prevail, we can witness that even though the Tatmadaw has attacked every non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities, it dared not touch the WA because the latter is strong and besides it has learnt a bitter lessons at the “Battle of Kunlong” of the 60s, however the rest of the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities easily fall prey to its “Divide and Rule” policy taking them one by one and forcing them to sign a truce. Since the founding of the Union of Burma, the promises for equal representation made at the Panglong Agreement was not only ignored but also reversed.

The international community did not comprehend that the betrayal of the Panglong Agreement, along with decades of human rights abuses and socio-economic exclusion prompted every ethnic nationalities groups to rebel. If this chronic problem of genuine federalism was not solve only because the Tatmadaw was vehemently against it, the international community will surely witness another score years of civil war to set up a new record of a century of civil war in the Guinness books of records. 

The world has witness the atrocities and the genocide of 700,000 Rohingya which flee to Bangladesh in 2017 and the outgoing UN rights expert Yanghee Lee had highlighted Tatmadaw committing new war crimes against the non-Myanmar ethnic minorities, with the “emboldened by special extended powers intended to help control the spread of Covid-19.” because it sees as COVID 19 as an opportunity to commit more abuses, while the world is distracted. Hence, it is high time for the civilized international community headed by the UN backed by US, EU, China, Russia including the third world Afro-Asian countries to cut the Burmese Gordian knot and let the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities formed the Union of Burma of its own without the hated Myanmar before another genocide.

Lamentably, the world has learnt a hard lesson of what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her hey days, wrote the “Freedom from Fear,” where she clearly define, it is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts the scourge of power those who are subject to it, now she is in power and clearly aligned with the Tatmadaw against the down trodden Arakanese people, curtailing the press and freedom of expression betraying her father’s legacy and ideal, seems to be the fate of all the people of Burma especially the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities.

But still there is still hope and a semblance of democracy and in the coming election the entire non Myanmar ethnic nationalities should vote for their respective ethnic nationalities party and not the Mahar Myanmar headed by the Tatmadaw and backed by the NLD, that betrayed the founding fathers of a Genuine Federal Union of Burma, for what our beloved Bogyoke Aung San is not the Myanmar lording over the non- Myanmar ethnic nationalities forever as Nicollo Machiavelli’s depicted in his theory of “the end justify the means” but Democracy and Genuine Federalism in the Union of Burma and not Myanmar. 

Kanbawza Win

Kanbawza Win is a political scientist based in Canada

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