Know the military

31 03 2021

While the New York Times has written about the murderous military in Myanmar in its “Inside Myanmar’s Army: ‘They See Protesters as Criminals’,” the parallels with Thailand are unmissable. Some points from the article:

[The military] occupy a privileged state within a state, in which soldiers live, work and socialize apart from the rest of society, imbibing an ideology that puts them far above the civilian population. The officers described being constantly monitored by their superiors, in barracks and on Facebook. A steady diet of propaganda feeds them notions of enemies at every corner, even on city streets.

snipers

Following orders in Thailand

The cumulative effect is a bunkered worldview, in which orders to kill unarmed civilians are to be followed without question….

The capacity for murdering civilians is stark and, in both countries, has been definitional of the armed forces for decades:

Today, the Tatmadaw’s foes are again domestic, not foreign: the millions of people who have poured onto the streets for anti-coup rallies or taken part in strikes….

“They see protesters as criminals because if someone disobeys or protests the military, they are criminal,” Captain Tun Myat Aung said. “Most soldiers have never tasted democracy for their whole lives. They are still living in the dark.”

The military’s penetration of society is deep:

Although the Tatmadaw shared some power with an elected government over the five years preceding the coup, it kept its grip on the country. It has its own conglomerates, banks, hospitals, schools, insurance agencies, stock options, mobile network and vegetable farms.

The military runs television stations, publishing houses and a film industry….

The cloistering of the military, on bases, separates them from broader society and there’s a history of nepotism and the creation of cross-generational military families:

Officers’ children often marry other officers’ children, or the progeny of tycoons who have profited from their military connections….

The class-like military sees threats from civil society and creates conspiracies, often fueled by the very same international conspiracy theorists targeting rightists and royalists in Thailand:

The cloistered nature of the Tatmadaw may help to explain why its leadership underestimated the intensity of opposition to the putsch. Officers trained in psychological warfare regularly plant conspiracy theories about democracy in Facebook groups favored by soldiers….

They see foreign “interference”:

… the “black hand” of foreign influence. George Soros, the American philanthropist and democracy advocate, stands accused in Tatmadaw circles of trying to subvert the country with piles of cash for activists and politicians. A military spokesman implied during a news conference that people protesting the coup, too, were foreign-funded.

When the military is behind a government, it remains powerful, even when elections are permitted:

Even during the five years of political opening, a quarter of the seats in Parliament were reserved for men in green. They didn’t mix with other lawmakers or vote as anything but a bloc.

Sadly, all of this is very familiar.


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