Since its takeover of the government in February, the Myanmar military has been torturing those it has detained in a methodical and systemic way across the country
Myanmar’s military has embarked upon a massive campaign of violence since last year’s coup and, over the past 19 months, has intensified and expanded its use of terror. This barbaric military has a notorious history of committing atrocities, so much so that its opponents often label it as “fascist.” Since its founding under the patronage of Imperial Japan in late 1941, the casual and systematic employment of atrocities in warfare has become deeply internalized within the institutional culture of this cruel military.
The army’s brutality is a core element of its institutional culture as practiced throughout the modern history of Myanmar. In the country’s long-running and bloody civil war, the military junta has persistently and extensively executed its signature indiscriminate violence against not only its opponents but also non-combatant civilians, particularly in ethnic minority areas.
Since its takeover of the government in February, the Myanmar military has been torturing those it has detained in a methodical and systemic way across the country, the Associated Press has found in interviews with 28 people imprisoned and released in recent months. Based also on photographic evidence, sketches and letters, along with testimony from two military captains and an aide to a high-ranking commander, the AP investigation provides the most comprehensive look since the takeover into a secretive detention system that has held more than 9,000 people.
The Myanmar military has a long history of torture, particularly before the country began transitioning toward democracy in 2010. While torture in recent years was most often recorded in ethnic regions, its use has now returned across the country, AP’s investigation found. The vast majority of torture techniques described by prisoners were similar to those of the past, including electric shocks, near-drownings and relentless beatings.
Despite its exhortations as to being the country’s stabilizer, Myanmar’s military, known as the Sit-Tat, has only exacerbated the conflict and turned the country into a source of instability across its decades of rule. It once again plunged Myanmar into chaos with its February 2021 coup, abruptly wrenching the country from its revitalized path towards stability and prosperity to that of a failed state.
Myanmar has always teetered on the edge of instability due to the Sit-Tat’s misrule. Indeed, its lack of control and manipulation of the long-running war to protect its political leadership has only exacerbated Myanmar’s internal conflicts. In previous eras, the Sit-Tat isolated itself and the country it ruled on the international stage, keeping its violence and oppression contained largely to Myanmar’s periphery.
Yet, even then, Myanmar’s instability had ripple effects. Chronic instability has helped turn the so-called “Golden Triangle” into one of the world’s leading producers of narcotics. Its periodic attempts to crush Myanmar’s diverse array of ethnic armed groups have caused large spikes in violence, some of which crosses borders. In 2015, fighting in the Kokang region led to the military’s accidental bombing of Chinese territory, the death of several civilians, and refugees fleeing into Yunnan Province. The Sit-Tat next instigated the 2017 Rohingya genocide and refugee crisis that led to over 900,000 fleeing into Bangladesh. Demonstrating the concern the international community felt for the regime, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even expressed concerns in 2009 about potential North Korean nuclear assistance to the Sit-Tat.
The junta’s recent confirmation that it will build a small-scale nuclear power plant in the next few years caps Myanmar’s long pursuit of nuclear technology dating back to early 2000.
The Southeast Asian country’s two-decade-long journey to nuclear capability was made possible by Russia after a series of engagements that accelerated under the current junta and its military predecessor.
Though the current regime insists nuclear energy would be used for peaceful purposes in Myanmar, which has been hit by chronic electricity shortages, many believe this is the first step in a plan to utilize nuclear energy for military purposes including production of nuclear weapons. This would be disaster for the world.
Firing bullets and mortar shells by the Myanmar’s military that hit no man’s land as well as Bangladesh territory leading to injuries and death and, also, panic among local population seems to be deliberate. But Bangladesh has done nothing so far to invite such unfriendly acts from Myanmar’s side. This is quite unbecoming of a next-door neighbour. Worse yet, the Myanmar government has tried to wash its hands off those violent incidents blaming those squarely on the rebel groups fighting its military in the Rakhine state bordering Bangladesh. However, despite all such provocations, Bangladesh has been showing utmost tolerance. This is because Bangladesh believes in resolving all kinds of disputes peacefully at the diplomatic level through dialogue.
What’s more surprising is that Myanmar’s ambassador in Bangladesh has been repeatedly summoned by the Bangladesh government and even after assuring to cause no more shelling on the mainland of our country, firing can still be heard almost on a daily basis in Ghundhum Union of Naikhongchhari in Bandarban. Residents there have spoken of how they cannot sleep at night due to fear of mortar shells. Many are said to be moving away from there.
Much as how the civil wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Syria destabilized the surrounding region through spillover effects, a fragmenting and collapsing Myanmar threatens to do the same for South and Southeast Asia. From the direct impact of cross-border violence to second order effects, such as refugee crises and drug trafficking, a weak state beset by conflict at the juncture of South and Southeast Asia could prove to be a long-term problem for the geo-strategically vital, and tense, Indo-Pacific.
There are growing signs that Myanmar’s military is in a serious struggle to survive. Since its leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, staged a coup on February 1, 2021, the nation has descended into a multifront civil war. Rather than securing the stability and security of Myanmar, the coup has created the possibility of the country fragmenting into several separate sovereign states. For Min Aung Hlaing and his top officers, the civil war may also result in the dismantling of their military.
The civil war has been reinforced by the perception that the international community at the UN level with the blockages of China and Russia in the UN Security Council and at the level of ASEAN without much hope while with that little positiveness of rejecting the presence of the military dictator at the ASEAN Summit, an ASEAN which has the support of the US, EU and others. This has led to the realization that to dislodge the military junta, the opponents to the junta have to rely on themselves while hoping against hope that ASEAN and the UN can do something. The actions taken by the PDFs, a few EAOs are also a pressure on outside actors to do something whether quietly or transparently especially ASEAN.
There’s been a fierce and unprecedented move to end military rule that has exploded since the coup, with people across Myanmar risking their lives and livelihoods for a better future, free from military violence and oppression. Despite the terror campaign waged by this military junta against the people of Myanmar, the people will not be silenced or stopped. World honours those whose lives have been robbed, who have sacrificed for this cause, including activists, ethnic freedom fighters, whistle-blowers, public and private sectors workers, and journalists. Together, world must and will dismantle the military cartel. Removing the Myanmar military from business, politics is imperative to establish a federal democracy. The military must be dismantled as soon as possible. The new military force of Myanmar must be formed under the civilian democratic government.
Myanmar military junta will never able to deal with both internal and external pressure for various reasons. Thus, we can assume that this brutal military must be dismantled as soon as possible. The world leaders including regional leaders have no clue that they are dealing with intolerably dumb, uneducated, and cruel soldiers of this “private army”, led by power-crazed generals. Today, thugs fear the wrath of the people. The only thing that the Myanmar military know and understand is violence. What world actors have to do is to simply invade Myanmar, dismantle the Tatmadaw and send all its generals to the Hague as war criminals. Thus, the world leaders must realize that they must intervene (invade) in Myanmar to dismantle this barbaric, uncivilized army. Myanmar army is a destabilizer of world peace. There must haven’t compromise in this regard.