Military DNA in Myanmar Governance – The New Indian Express
Myanmar’s February military coup has now slowly but surely faded from the headlines and public memory. Responses from international and regional institutions, in particular the UN and ASEAN, have been moderate at best, simply calling on the junta to allow the return of democracy and not asking them in any way to do so or to pay for it. the price. Now even those who had been genuinely outraged, inside and outside Myanmar, seem resigned not only to the reality of the coup, but also to the possibility of another long period of military rule in the country. the country. Most countries are now inclined to the pragmatic option of establishing links with whoever appears to be the holder of power in the country and not to the moralistic option of aligning only with those who strive for the return of the country. democracy.
India’s emotional ties to Myanmar should have been much stronger, given that the latter was part of British India until 1937, but as the late Ashok Mitra pointed out in an A Dose of column. Heresy in a Kolkata daily newspaper a decade ago, India is intuitively not eastward. At the height of the freedom struggle, when Myanmar (then Burma) split from India, it went virtually unnoticed. Mitra even hyperbolically suggested that if along with Myanmar the Northeast had also been so separated, the response might have been similar. It was then. Now things have changed, especially with China’s shadow growing longer in the region. While the dilemma of whether or not the military coup in Myanmar should be treated as an internal affair of the country cannot be an easy one, on India’s part it should at least result in a policy on the matter. of refugees which takes into account the presence of Myanmar’s desperate political refugees on its territory. From a longer term perspective, it would also be prudent for the country to start paying attention to what lies to the east, just as it does to developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Myanmar is therefore important.
In any consideration of Myanmar, what must be kept in mind is that without a complete structural and collective psychological overhaul, it seems that civilian rule in Myanmar can never be complete. The point is that for most of the postcolonial years of the country since independence in 1948, it has been under military rule. The brief period of partial democracy that returned a decade ago has now been stifled again. The diagnosis will have to go beyond the popular explanation of the military leaders’ thirst for power. There also appears to be an underlying sense of a patriotic role for the military as guardian of the political establishment – DNA inherited from the military’s roots as activists fighting for freedom. Can an army with such a history become completely subordinate to civilian authority? In a hypothetical scenario, if in 1947 it was the Indian National Army (INA) that liberated India, would the Indian army with its genes have been what it is today?
Defeat in victory, a book by Marshal William Slim, commander of the Burma Theater during World War II, contains some interesting clues. He described how he twice met General Aung San, father of Aung San Suu Kyi and leader of the Myanmar Freedom Struggle as well as founder of a militia army – the Burmese Defense Army and more later the Burmese National Army – which wanted to negotiate the conditions to change sides for the British after a few years of fighting alongside the Japanese and the INA. It was May 1945 and Slim had turned the tide in this theater of conflict and the Japanese were in retreat. Whether this is opportunism on Aung San’s part is another question. Many on the British side were skeptical, believing that the BNA would have little to offer militarily and that the group’s Burmese nationalism would be a headache for the British after the war. Pacific Theater Supreme Allied Commander Lord Mountbatten, however, was in favor of Slim’s proposal, so the meetings were held.
Slim met Aung San, both at UK headquarters in Meiktila, on May 15-30. At the first meeting, Aung San proposed that his provisional government formed by the Anti-Fascist League for People’s Freedom, AFPFL, be taken as an ally of himself. as an allied commander. This was refused and the offer was for the BNA soldiers to be absorbed by the British Burma Rifles. On May 30, Aung San gave in to Slim’s terms but insisted on two conditions: his troops would be paid and rationed by the British and if important orders were to be given to the BNA soldiers, the resistance leaders would be consulted. Slim agreed.
When Myanmar gained independence in 1948, the provisional government of Aung San inherited the British administration. Understandably, such a government would carry a lot of the DNA of the resistance movement it once led when there was no clear separation between military and political responsibilities. Writer Bertil Lintner observed in an article that the Myanmar army presumes “the dwifungsi doctrine, or dual function, of the Indonesian army in which the army has both a defense role and a socio-political role. “. This transition of power to Aung San’s party also somewhat alienated ethnic minorities, whose loyalty to the British while in power was much longer and unwavering. Myanmar’s current problem can therefore be seen as a consequence of the nation’s inability to first purge its defense forces of political DNA inherited from their days as freedom fighters. Second, the country’s failure to decentralize and rework a comprehensive federal political structure that has ensured an equitable sharing of power among its many nationalities. It may be interesting to note here that there are other nations that have gained militia-led freedom and have faced similar challenges. For example, the controversial US Second Amendment may be the country’s own way of sublimating a similar gene.
Editor-in-Chief, Imphal Review of Arts and Politics