Fed up with orders to shoot peaceful protestors, Myanmar soldiers join democracy movement
Kolkata: More and more soldiers in Myanmar, fed up with the orders to shoot peaceful protesters since the February 1 coup, are in revolt mode and have joined the movement for restoring democracy in the country.
IANS joined an online discussion organised by the civil society organisation Thanakha Global Alliance on Friday.
Joining the discussion, two former military officers called on the movement to protect soldiers and officers who have joined the movement after refusing to obey orders to shoot innocents.
The officers preferred anonymity for fear of action against family members.
One told the discussion that at least 800 military personnel, from Private (Sepoy) to Major, have joined the democracy movement.
They were aged between 20 and 35, clearly pointing to huge unease in the military rank and file over the brutal suppression of the democracy movement after the military takeover.
Daw Miemie Winn Byrd, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel, Naw May Oo, a tactical adviser to Karen State-based ethnic armed group the Karen National Union, and former Myanmar military captains Nyi Thuta and Lin Htet Aung took part in the discussion.
Nyi Thuta blamed the Tatmadaw (military) leadership for dividing the people and rank-and-file members of the military.
Thuta called on the Burmese people not to hate all military personnel, but to focus on fighting the dictatorship.
Of the Myanmar military’s some 400,000 troops, only around 20 per cent are committing violence against the people, the former captain claimed.
Full-scale fighting between the entire military and the people as a whole would end up in massive bloodshed, he said, adding: “That must be avoided at all cost.”
“Under this system, the rank-and-file members of the military and their families are suffering as much as the people. We will be able to achieve victory with minimal losses if military personnel side with the people. So, the channels should be kept open to allow military personnel to join hands with the public,” Thuta said.
Calls to shun military personnel and their families have been growing as part of a social punishment movement against the regime, which has killed more than 800 people since February.
Nyi Thuta said rank-and-file members of the military and their families are subject to oppression by the higher-ups and their families, and the majority do not have the option of walking away from their high-ranking bullies.
His fellow former captain Lin Htet Aung said many military personnel oppose the coup, but dare not speak out because that would mean risking not only their lives but also of their families.
“They could be imprisoned for long terms if they publicly oppose the coup. Their lives would be at risk. Some officials who implied they stood by the people have been detained,” he said.
The CDM was made possible by the support of the people, and many more military personnel are expected to leave their barracks if people continue to support those wishing to join, he said.
Miemie Winn Byrd, who served in the US Army for 28 years, said the sole duty of the armed forces is to protect the people.
“Their duty is to protect the people. They should train to fight wars and defend their country, but not do business and politics. If they do, things will end up in chaos,” Miemie Winn Byrd, who is of Burmese origin, said.
IANS had previously reported some incidents of mutiny in April and May with both lower ranking officers and soldiers refusing to shoot on protest rallies.
But the discussion participants pointed to large scale desertions from some units.
“Soldiers who have lost near and dear ones during the indiscriminate shootings by the Tatmadaw are reacting sharply,” a Burmese TV journalist said on the condition of anonymity.
A retired major general, now running his own business, told IANS that “cracks have appeared in the top echelons of Tatmadaw as well. Many generals blame the whole crisis on chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and his Chinese backers”.
He added that the Tatmadaw has never been comfortable with “Chinese designs to turn Myanmar into a surrogate state” .
“Just a matter of time before a huge revolt engulfs the Tatmadaw. We want a professional army like India and not a political army like Pakistan which sells out the nation.”