Myanmar’s brutal military was once a force for freedom – but it has been waging civil war for decades

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Myanmar’s armed forces recently celebrated theirs with a great roar – but few guests 76th anniversary in the state capital Naypyitaw.

Only Russia, China, Thailand and a handful of other Asian countries sent representatives to the parade on Sept. Russia and China $ 2.4 billion over the past decade.

The Myanmar military has been terrorizing civilians since a Coup two months earlier. On the day of the parade, soldiers killed over 90 people for protesting against military rule. including a 5 year old boy and three teenagers. An estimated 564 people have been killed in Myanmar since the February 1 coup.

One of the poorest countries in Asia, Myanmar spends twice as much on defense as on them Education and health united. With half a million soldiers, at least on paper, Myanmar has the 38th strongest military in the world according to Global Fire Power, ranking 140 nations in terms of their ability to wage war.

Myanmar’s military has not always been a repressive force. It started out as a revered liberating force founded to end colonial rule.

History of the Burmese Army

Burma’s first national army came from World War II and the pursuit of independence.

Led by a group called “30 Comrades,” the received military training from the Japanese, the Burma Independence Army allied with Japan to fight the British. Every day people were selling their gold to support this revolutionary force.

The Burmese Independence Army ousted the British in 1941. The Japanese then occupied Burma and fought Great Britain, the United States and other allied forces from this strategic location in Southeast Asia.

Soon, however, Burma’s army wanted to drive Japan out of Burma, even. So do many Burmese. Thousands of ethnic and religious minorities from rural border areas joined the army.

Historically, these minority groups had kept their distance from the Buddhist majority in the country, called the Bamar, and from each other. The British have maintained and intensified these ethnic divisions as a tactic to maintain their colonial rule.

But during the resistance movement against the Japanese in the 1940s all were united behind Burma’s army, my research – women too.

In 2007 I interviewed them The first five women soldiers to join Burma’s struggle for independence.

“When the resistance movement began, we were ready to give everything, including our lives,” Daw Khin Kyi Kyi, then over 80 years old, told me.

The women received military training, traveled to villages near army camps to explain why the army was now fighting the Japanese, and convinced the locals to offer food and shelter to the soldiers. The women also hired local people to spy on Japanese troops.

Civil war begins

The Japanese surrendered to the Allies in 1945 and withdrew from all occupied territories, including Burma.

That brought Burma back into British hands, with the promise of full sovereignty.

Before the British granted Burma independence, however, they required the country’s Bamar leadership to prove that its many minority groups also wanted independence as a nation. Burma’s revolutionary army leader Aung San called a summit in the city of Panglong with the leaders of various ethnic groups to negotiate the foundations of a united, independent Burma.

However, the Karen, a predominantly Christian population from the south-east of the country, had previously promised British help in establishing their own free state. The Karen leaders refused to join the 1947 Panlong Agreement.

Burma gained independence in 1948. The next year, Karen elite forces organized an armed revolt against the new national government.

A sign marking the Karen National Liberation Army’s independence movement in eastern Myanmar, July 1988. (Pornvilai Carr / AFP via Getty Images)

Since then, Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, has existed essentially only to fight Myanmar’s minorities.

Myanmar’s war economy

After independence, Burma had a democratic government for about a decade. But the army was more powerful. Between In 1962 and 2010, Burma was a military dictatorship. Military rule held out show occasional riots, elections, and several coups in which one set of generals overthrew another.

Civil war is costly, so Myanmar developed a war economy. Initially, it financed its battles with rice exports and loans from the USA and the Soviet Union. Over time, Burma’s military has anchored itself in the global economic system.

1962 established the military junta regime Burma Trade Limited in central London as his “legitimate” international broker. The military also mined and sold jade, especially in areas where oppressed ethnic minorities lived, and profited from a brisk opium trade.

This military-controlled economy enriched Burma’s generals, but the money did not fuel national economic growth. In 1987 Burma was classified as one of the “Worldwide” by the United Nations.least developed countries. “

A bus drove to Mandalay, Myanmar, in the late 1980s or early 1990s. (Robert Tixador / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

In 1989, Burma’s name was changed to Myanmar.

Sanctions and boycotts

Today, Myanmar’s economy is almost entirely controlled by the military, from telecommunications to drugs. The military’s vast business networks – the some rights groups call “cartels” – Protected the generals from attempts at democratization.

In 2008, for example, the Myanmar military approved a new constitution that officially allocates 75% of the seats in parliament to civilian politicians and 25% to army officials.

Unofficially, however, the military largely continued to rule the nation. This included the relentless repression of minority groups, including the Karen – the maintained their uprising for seven decades – and the Rohingya Muslims.

The 2015 elections should mark a turning point in this quasi-democratic system. Aung San Suu Kyi, Daughter of revolutionary Aung San and leader of a previous democratic uprising, and her National League for Democracy won in a landslide.

Suu Kyi has been criticized for failing to withstand the military, particularly in its attacks on the Rohingya. Even so, she was deposed in the February 2021 coup and is now detained in an undisclosed location. Some dissidents are fleeing to Karen territory and other ethnic areas held by rebels to escape the military.

As the Myanmar death toll rises, international pressure is growing for Countries are imposing tougher sanctions on the junta and for the cessation of trade of the companies. Japan’s Kirin beer and a German company that supplies the Myanmar Mint are among those who have severed ties with Myanmar.

Meanwhile, civil disobedience continues in the country. Strangling funding for the military could give protesters and the ousted civilian government a chance to fight.

This article was originally published on The conversation. read this original article.

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