The Tragedy of Myanmar Generals Playing Nation-builders and Peace-Makers

Myanmar Tatmadaw Leaders have long proven to be un-fit psychologically or intellectually to be successful nation-builders. Myanmar's military-led democratic transition will not go anywhere other than a place I have long dubbed "twilight zone" - neither outrightly totalitarian nor remotely democratic. 

Here is a case in point. 

You can take a man out of the Myanmar Army, but you can't take the army out of the man. 

The case of NLD U Win Htein (ex-captain from Defence Services Academy - In-Take-5, class of 1962 and former Personal Staff Officer to the Defence Minister, now NLD Vice-Chair and ex-General Tin Oo). 

A lot of people complain about the NLD U Win Htein saluting Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing (DSA-19) while the latter didn't seem to reciprocate. 

Here in the background, the military intelligence chief Lt-General Mya Tun Oo (DSA-25) was seen, standing by the entrance door, having ushered in U Win Htein and 3 other male NLD Transition Team members who accompanied the NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. 

There are 3 institutions which are totalitarian in essence and operation: 

1) the armed forces (starting with training depots and officers' schools and academies); 
2) mental wards - especially the old era "mental asylums"; and 
3) prisons. 

In these places the institutions have total and complete control over the life, identity and movement of the inmates - cadets, madmen and -women and prisoners. 

Of the three, the officers' training schools and military academies are the most intensely Pavlovian. 

Young post-teenage boys are whipped through 3-4 years of intense conditioning, both mentally and physically: with the end result being the cookie-cutter humans. 

Their physical movements are more or less uniform. 

Their mental reactions to certain external stimuli are also more or less the same. They don't own themselves; their time, routines, mindset, etc. are "owned" by the Army. 

Years of conditioned through rewards and punishments have produced automatic responses. 

U Win Htein, relatively speaking, is an honourable man who risked his life standing up for the Burmese Muslims of his native town - Meikhtila. He also spent more than a decade behind jail - as a political prisoner in Mingyan Prison. 

But at the same time, he is too enamoured with the State power, notions of authorities, and authoritarian - as evidenced in the way he treated young Burmese reporters. 

He was a friend of my late uncle, who was from the Defense Services Academy In-take-6, a year junior to Win Htein. In those days (in the early 1960's), the total number of cadets in each graduating class was not more than 32. All these overlapping classes, the cadets all knew one another well. 

My uncle broke into tears when he had to resign from his Major post from Burma Air Force to switch over to the civil aviation and later join the two teams of VIP pilots for the dictator Ne Win, in the late 1970's. 

He died an extremely docile, and unquestioning ex-Air Force Major who thought my revolt against the military state was treasonous. 

Sad - how otherwise intelligent and good Burmese men throw their lives away, having undergone this totalitarian experience as cadets. 

Very exceptional ex-officers are able to un-learn their Pavlovian military training. But they are an exception to the rule. They don't survive in the Armed Forces. 

Active, independent and questioning minds - the type of minds that are needed for a highly complex mission of nation-building do not thrive within the army's hierarchy. 

That's why, I have absolutely no confidence or hold no hopes that the military-led democratic transition will go anywhere other than a place I have long dubbed "twilight zone" - neither outrightly totalitarian nor remotely democratic. 

In the Burmese society, the ex-officers are often referred to as Nat-O-Gwe - broken pieces of spirit pots (they cannot be reused in any other contexts or for purposes than the ones they are intended for: the military affairs). 

When men of zeal, without suitable orientation or experience, arrogate to themselves the tasks they are utterly un-qualified then the nation and the people are in big trouble.

Myanmar under the rule of the Tatmadaw leader or Burmese generals over the last 53 years is a textbook example of how tragic and devastating the consequences have been when Burmese generals fancy themselves as nation-builders and play the fantasies. Knowing these men, their mentality and their capacity, I shudder to contemplate the future of my country.


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.