Enigmatic Problems and Rough Ride of Myanmar (Part – 1)

It is so shocking whenever Myanmar politics is analyzed. The military cracked down anti-coup protests, and did with an excessive use of force. As a result, defense forces mushroomed surprisingly everywhere. Compared to the military coups of 1958, 1962, and 1988, the coup this time faced with unexpected resistance movement which clearly showed the people were feeling very bitter about negative consequences of the past.

Here, it is good to trace the past history a little for the reasons behind all this.

Let’s look at the writings of senior politicians who fought for independence. When the British agreed to return independence, they prepared to write a declaration of independence, compose a national anthem, and consult astrologers for “an auspicious moment” to celebrate independence. When the astrologer asked, “what kind of nation would you like to have?”, the one who went to consult answered to have a militarily powerful country. It was said there were thoughts in the minds of some gentlemen at the time like “our country is sandwiched between the two powers of China and India and if we don’t possess a powerful military, we will always be threatened by them and so ours must be militarily powerful.” At present it is true to say Myanmar is really rich in combat forces, but not all of them are in a single army. They are in the Army and also scatter among many big and small groups fighting against the military. It is quite sure to say Myanmar possesses the highest number of armed people in South-east Asia if these men are counted as a whole. But it’s noted that they belong to different armed groups.

To continue what was said earlier, it was said that 4:20 A.M., Sunday, the 4th of January 1948 (birth symbol- Puti) was selected based on Burmese astrological calculations as the most auspicious day and moment to celebrate independence. When it was presented to the governor, he said it was in the cold season and still very early before dawn, but as Burmese leaders didn’t want to change, the governor said, “Well, we have to get up early just for one day, but you have to get up early every year”, and gave his approval. Nowadays, it needs a great effort to celebrate Independence Day ceremony at 4:20 in the morning every year.

Soon after independence, fighting broke out and there has been over 70 years until today. No one can deny that we cannot compete with military might of either China or India in reality, and armed conflicts among ourselves have made a Myanmar history, instead. Moreover, we failed to find a solution, and blamed on the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s remark as a divide and cause of the civil war that Burmese people were not ready to govern by themselves and if they gained independence early, it might lead to a civil war in Burma. Weakness in self-criticism and self- assessment can here be seen and it is very rare to seek and review one’s own faults.

At that time, Independence was of the most supreme importance for them and so they forgot to prepare for governance and for the future, my father once said. Politicians also forgot to get maps of underground water and sanitation system from the British. They all focused only on political affairs, and failed to attend to administrative and planning activities. As the economy developed during the colonial time, they might consider unnecessary to pay attention to it. As Burma was then really a rich country in south-east Asia, they might ignore the importance of such matters. Destruction of documented records and maps due to the second world war might also be a reason among others.

Formerly it was not very common to hear corruption in the military even during a protracted and incessant civil war.  It was said when a surgent won a highest union lottery, he was asked to retire from the military service for prevention of disobedience due to wealth. Military with such a good tradition became involved in business since the time of the care-taker government. After the military coup of 1962, changes in education systems and nationalization of businesses were made in the name of social revolution. Previously General Ne Win himself was considered free from corruption, but later as Commander-in-Chief he misused the State budgets as his own. However, he strictly controlled other military personnel not to follow him. At that time, many Generals did not even own a place to live. On the other hand, the country’s economy has deteriorated with time and fallen to a least developing country (LDC) from a rich one.

During U Than Shwe’s rule, the Central Military Audit (CMA) department was moved out from the Auditor’s General office to under the Ministry of Defense, and military expenditure could only be audited by the military itself since then.

Economic deterioration worsened after the 1988 military coup, and devaluation of Myanmar currency was at plunge. General Than Shwe did not trust the whole public because of their participation in pro-democracy movement, and so he planned for the military to stand on its own. Farm lands were grabbed by the military for its own food supply. Military personnel were involved in various business activities and let them corrupt and bound them as a ring of accomplice (case-mates) to be loyal to military. The Central Military Audit department had formerly been under the Auditor General’s Office. As military expenditure had been audited by external audits who had needed not looking at the faces of top brass because they were from outside. During U Than Shwe’s rule, the Central Military Audit department was moved out from the Auditor’s General office to under the Ministry of Defense, and military expenditure could only be audited by the military itself since then. No external audit was permitted, and commanders became more powerful as they could decide their expenses on their own. Consequently, they became rich and nepotistic.

Nyan Lynn