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Friday, December 3, 2021

Moral crisis looms as soldiers leave Myanmar’s infamous army

Aung Myo Htet has always dreamed of becoming a soldier and achieved the rank of captain. But when he joined the army in Myanmar, he thought he would defend his country and not fight – and lose – battles against his compatriots.

In June, he was sent to the front lines in Kaya state to crush resistance militants and armed protesters against the generals who seized power in the February coup. Aung Myo Htet, 32, said three of his fellow soldiers were killed.

“Seeing the victims on our side made me so sad,” he said. “We fought and sacrificed ourselves for the sake of the general, not for the sake of the country.”

On October 7, he left his base and joined the Civil Disobedience Movement of the country, a nationwide rally aimed at restoring democracy and overthrowing senior general Min Aung Hlaing, the man behind the coup. At least 2,000 other soldiers and police have done the same as part of a broader campaign to weaken the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s most notorious institution.

Defectors make up a small portion of the Southeast Asian nation’s army, which is estimated to number between 280,000 and 350,000. But they seem to have hit the nerves and contributed to the growing crisis of morale among the troops. The army is struggling to recruit. He recalled all pensioners, threatening to refuse to pay pensions if they did not return. The soldiers’ wives say they are being ordered to secure the bases in violation of military law.

For the first time in its 67-year history, the Myanmar Ministry of Defense Academy, the country’s equivalent of West Point, failed to fill places in this year’s freshman courses.

“We have never seen desertions at this level,” said Mo Tuzar, co-coordinator of the Myanmar Research Program at the Southeast Asian Research Institute in Singapore. “What we have seen since February is a constant flow of people leaving and also publicly declaring their support for the CDM. This is unprecedented. “

General Min Aung Hlaing still enjoys the loyalty of his senior officers, and there are too few defectors to overthrow the Tatmadaw. But those who leave are quickly gripped by resistance. Myanmar’s four armed ethnic groups that have fought the Tatmadaw since the country became independent from Britain in 1948 have offered food and shelter, as well as the opportunity to join forces.

“Their seasoned military experience has proven invaluable to our armed resistance,” said Naing Hto Aung, Minister of Defense for the Government of National Unity, a group of ousted leaders that have proclaimed themselves the legitimate government of Myanmar and are monitoring the rise in defectors. … “We all have a common goal now.”

Many defectors posted their social media accounts, encouraging other soldiers to follow them. Most of those who left are of lower ranks, but some of them were officers.

Several defectors are currently working with a group of tech activists in a stealthy online campaign to bring in more troops to take out. Using stock images of military men and attractive women as profile photos, activists created over a dozen fake Facebook pages to befriend the soldiers.

Accounts are used to send private messages begging them not to hurt innocent people. Another group used Facebook to convince wives to convince their husbands to leave the military and stop supporting the junta.

“This propaganda war is playing out,” said Richard Horsey, senior adviser to the International Crisis Group on Myanmar. “I think they make the resistance more courageous and confident.”

The fled soldiers say they felt obligated to do so after the coup, describing their disgust at their superiors’ orders to shoot civilians. On November 6, the head of the UN body investigating war crimes in Myanmar said that attacks by the military on civilians were tantamount to “crimes against humanity.”

“When I was ordered to shoot, I called the people and told them to flee,” said Htet Myat, a captain based in Bhamo, a city in northern Myanmar that was the site of fierce fighting between ethnic armed rebels and the army. “People were saved, but I could not live in such an inhuman place.”

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However, desertion can be as dangerous as any battlefield. The People’s Soldiers, a group formed by a former captain who was once General Min Aung Hlaing’s speechwriter, tried to help.

One night in August, Kaung Htet Aung, a 29-year-old sergeant, watched a soldier in a Zoom session hosted by the People’s Soldiers discuss a major who had deserted in March and spoke from a hidden location. As he lay in his barracks and secretly watched the video, Kaung Htet Aung wondered how much the major had to sacrifice to join the anti-coup movement.

He later contacted the People’s Soldiers, who told him they would help him desert, starting a harrowing journey. He left his base on May 9 and was involved in a motorcycle accident. According to him, when he asked for help, he was thrown into a military prison. On September 6, he escaped from prison and walked into the jungle.

The sergeant, who was making the ammunition, then took a bus to the “liberated area,” a term the resistance uses to refer to the ethnic fringes in Myanmar. “I was very happy to be free,” he said. “Now I don’t have to make bullets to kill people.”

While The New York Times was unable to independently verify the soldier’s account, the risks of desertion are clear. He was sentenced to three years in prison, and family members are often repressed. Traveling can be dangerous, including hiding out in several cities before reaching safety on the outskirts.

Flight also means sacrificing a potentially lucrative future. Officers able to advance through the ranks usually benefit from the extensive business estates of the Tatmadau, which include two of the country’s most powerful conglomerates.

“Most military personnel are brainwashed and don’t see the truth,” said Lin Htet Aung, a captain who defected in March. “Some who see the truth do not want to give up their position.”

One of the arguments that defectors use to convince others to leave is based on the mistreatment of ordinary soldiers. Corporal Tzwe Man said he wanted to join the military after seeing people putting garlands on troops marching in the southern city of Bago in 2016.

A year later, he graduated from the military academy and became a sniper. He said he only made $ 105 a month and that the food was bad. “I joined the army because I wanted to be a soldier who defends the country and who is loved by the people,” he said. “But when I joined, I discovered that this was the place where the lower rank soldiers were tortured.”

In May, Mr. Zwe Man stumbled across the People’s Soldiers Facebook page and started reading comments:

“V the military are killing their people. “

“The military is a big thief.”

“The military is trying to rule the country for their own sake.”

In July, in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak, Mr Tsve Man said the army is not isolating people infected with the virus, resulting in deaths in the barracks. He is also haunted by the violence he witnessed after the coup: people are arrested and houses burned down.

He said that his girlfriend told him that the army was killing civilians and urged him to join the Civil Disobedience Movement. “I decided that I really needed to stand up for what was right,” he said. “And don’t be on the wrong side of people.” On September 17, Mr. Zwe Man asked his army commander for permission to leave the base.

According to him, his request was approved. And he never came back.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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