Almost two months after the military coup, Myanmar’s security forces continue to terrorize the country’s civilian population. This week, there was again serious bloodshed across the country, with brutal beatings against demonstrators continuing, as well as the arrests of activists, journalists and politicians. The army has stepped up its crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, occupying many hospitals and schools across the country. A new tactic of terror is to cause panic at night with indiscriminate shots and grenades in the residential areas. The nightly arrests continue unabated: they target Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters, democratically elected municipal administrators and young protesters.
The military is no longer just threatening, they are killing now. Often targeted and shot in the head, which suggests the use of sheep shooters. Cold-blooded murder from the ambush. The killings are equivalent to extrajudicial executions carried out by military units that have already been involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against ethnic minorities in the past. Murder of the junta’s opponents remains unpunished in Myanmar as long as the junta rules. More than 40 policemen and soldiers have fled across the border to India in recent days because they did not want to shoot at their own country people. The death penalty is on the run. Countless other policemen and soldiers have joined the civil disobedience movement and defected with their weapons to the insurgents. They have offered to help build a new armed force against the Tatmadaw.
There is civil war in Burma. When you send people out on the streets against the junta, you have to protect them. You can’t let them be shot like rabbits by trigger-happy, murder-hungry soldiers. When the military attacks the demonstrators, when they roam the neighborhoods at night plundering and murdering, they must be received with a lead thunderstorm that the attackers who survive it will never forget. The construction of an own armed force must be the most urgent task of the CRPH.
Resistance organizes itself
The CRPH was founded by NLD MPs after the coup as a challenge to the legitimacy of the Junta government. It operates underground. The CRPH supports the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), a campaign calling for people to refuse to work for the regime. It is also trying to sue the regime in international courts for its deadly actions against the civilian population. The CRPH consists of elected representatives of the people and is thus the only legitimate government in Myanmar. On 1 February, the military prevented the elected representatives from meeting for the first time after the November 2020 elections. At this first meeting a new government was to be formed. The CRPH is and will remain the government of Myanmar until the elected parliament has met to form a new government.
After the coup, the military junta formed its own government, appointed the SAC (State Administration Council) and ministers. But the junta has no mandate from the people. Their mandate comes solely from the rifle barrels. The Tatmadaw justified its coup with the specious claim of electoral fraud that the regime had only stepped in as administrator to allow fairer elections in a year. The regime’s brutal action against the citizens of its own country has nullified this claim. The electorate of the junta consists solely of its military units and a narrow economic elite of “cronies”, as the private corrupt economic bosses who have allied themselves with the military are called among the people of Myanmar. They have nothing to gain in new elections. No matter how manipulated they may be, they will not get a majority government. And certainly not after this coup, nobody in Burma is currently as hated as the military. The Tatmadaw is the enemy of the people and the enemy of any democracy.
The military in Burma and its business
The military in Burma and in many other third world countries cannot be compared to the military in the countries of the West. His position and function are quite different. This has little to do with national defense, the military are the parasites that bleed the people to death. The military is not a servant of the government, on the contrary, it is the military that has the say in the state.
Since its first seizure of power in 1962, Tatmadaw has developed into a privileged state within the state. It has seized power over the country’s economy and gained privileges that it no longer wants to give up. They sit at the switching points of both politics and the economy. The top ranks of the Tatmadaw occupy top positions in the administration. National defense is at best a minor matter, the army is there to fight unrest in its own country, to maintain its own supremacy and to prevent insurrections.
The Tatmadaw are the leading capitalists in the country, they own countless companies and factories or they are led by them. This is similar to what would happen in Germany if the top generals from the Quandt, Bosch, Haniel, Schwarz and Albrecht families were to come and the Ministries of Interior, Defense and Border Affairs were to be under their command by law.
At the economic and political control points, the Burmese military forces place orders among themselves, their families or minions. Obligations that competitors have to fulfill do not count for the military companies, violations of the law are not punished, laws are tailored so that they do not interfere with the business of the military companies, but rather favor them.
The two largest companies, with the largest annual sales, MEC (Myanmar Economic Corporation) and MEHL (Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited), belong to the military. “These companies were built through the systemic corruption of the military dictatorship and the theft of public assets, which expanded under the leadership of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.” They are active in all economic sectors, from mining to tourism to telecommunications, banking and other services. At the same time, they own numerous properties and estates in the best locations. A large part of the GDP is accounted for by military companies, which also hold monopolies in many key sectors such as mining (jade, gold, oil…). MEHL, MEC and a relatively small group of affiliated civil businessmen, popularly referred to as “the cronies”, snatched economic concessions, real estate and lucrative contracts with the state as well as with foreign companies. Beer and tobacco, mining and construction companies up to tourism and real estate development, who wants to do business with Myanmar, does not miss the Tatmadaw as a partner.
The budget of the army and its revenues are non-transparent, the accounting is a matter of the military and cannot be controlled The true revenues know only a few initiates. The multibillion-dollar dividends are distributed by MEC and FLOUR to their shareholders, all military personnel and retired military personnel, because only they can buy shares in MEC and FLOUR. And you don’t even have to pay taxes on that. A 2020 study by Amnesty International found that the military received up to $ 18 billion in dividends over the years through FLOUR alone.
The military alone decides on the defense budget. When purchasing material for the military, be it weapons or other goods, high bribes are regularly paid to the buyers. The prices are overpriced, the military deducts the difference. The military has its own infrastructure to high standards in the field of health care, and education. Hospitals, schools, colleges, are better in Burma than the non-military facilities.
The businesses that MEC and MEHL do not run themselves are assigned to their family members. The children and wives of the senior officers are almost all in the business. They are awarded the most lucrative contracts, their business practices are protected by the military. No one would dare to go against them, no matter what scams they commit. As an example, we only want to highlight the economic activities of the family of the chief putschist Min Aung Hlaing. General Min Aung Hlaing and Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice Senior General Soe Win lead the FLOUR and the MEC.
The son of the coup leader owns the Azura Beach Hotel. The hotel is one of the largest resorts on Chaung Thar Beach in the Ayeyarwady region. Aung Pyae Sone also has companies in the fields of trade, medical equipment, construction and entertainment. He owns the construction company Sky One as well as A&M Mahar, a health and wellness company. He was also granted permission to lease public land in People’s Park in Yangon for far below market value. He paid only about 0.5% of the usual rent in the area. He runs the Yangon Restaurant and the Yangon Gallery right next to the Shwedagon Pagoda, where he serves alcohol contrary to a ban by the Yangon City Development Committee.
Aung Pyae Sone also operates the Kan Tharyar Hospital near Lake Inya in Rangoon and is reportedly the largest shareholder in telecommunications provider Mytel, a joint venture between Myanmar’s military and Viettel, which is owned by the Vietnamese army. Aung Pyae Sone’s wife, Myo Yadanar Htaik, is also active in business, including as director of Nyein Chan Pyae Sone Manufacturing & Trading Company along with her husband. Until recently, she was director of Apower, a subsidiary of Aung Myin Thu Group, which operates a real estate project in Yangon’s Mingaladon Township.
Min Aung Hlaing’s daughter, Khin Thiri Thet Mon, owns Seventh Sense, a media production company that produces big-budget films and has exclusive contracts with Nay Toe and Wut Hmone Shwe Yi. Nay Toe plays an important role in marketing for Mytel, the mobile operator that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing co-founded with MEC, as he has received the government’s share of the company. Khin Thiri Thet Mon also owns Everfit, a chain of luxury gyms.
Min Aung Hlaing may be the largest shark swimming in the Burmese pond, but the pond is teeming with sharks. For example, there is the vice president of the junta, General SOE Win, who is carved out of the same wood as the rest of the entire gang that seized power in Burma.
Soe Win is accused of being involved in numerous cases of corruption and extortion during his time as commander of the Northern Regional Command from 2008 to 2010. He is accused of accepting bribes from companies trading in jade, wood and gold in exchange for concessions… It is reported that he accepted 150 million kyats ($149,254) in bribes from teak businessmen from the Chinese province of Yunnan in exchange for allowing the illegal teak trade on the border between Myanmar and China. In March 2010, he ordered Tatmadaw soldiers in Hpakant in Kachin State to collect military taxes from local jade mining companies.
And there is also Thet Thet Khine, Minister of Social Affairs, Aid and Resettlement. It owns a number of gold, jewellery and gem production companies, including Forever Gems and Shwe Nan Taw Gold and Jewellery, the country’s largest gold and jewellery retailer. She is also Managing Director of Jewel Collection Manufacturing Co. Ltd and United GP Development Co. Ltd.
The Tatmadaw are willing to do anything to destroy those who oppose their rule. Their privileges are based on the military strength of the Tatmadaw and the force with which they enforce it. They are by no means the result of their own business acumen. The business model of Tatmadaw is based on corruption and favoritism, based on their guns. Their advantage in enforcing their business interests and privileges rests solely on the fact that they have a gun and the others do not. Not only Min Aung Hlaing and his family have a lot to lose after accumulating obscene personal wealth through the abuse of his public position as head of the military.
This wealth, which the people of Myanmar have earned and which they have stolen from the people of Myanmar, the people of Myanmar will take back from them as soon as they have driven them out of office. The military must not only be brought before a public court, but also expropriated without compensation.
The fear of Tatmadaw
The Tatmadaw is only courageous when it comes to killing or intimidating innocent civilians. Basically, they are a gang of pathetic cowards. Since taking power almost 60 years ago, they have committed all kinds of crimes. They feel the hatred of the population at every turn and they know that they expect nothing good when they are caught. Only a few days ago, a civilian night watch in Rangoon beat to death two soldiers who had attacked them.
It is fear that holds the armed forces together. They know that if they lose this time, they will end up in prison or exile at best. If the people catch them alive somewhere, they may not experience the next day. This applies to both the ordinary soldier and the officers up to Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing.
Murder, theft and destruction along with the burning of villages and rape of women has been a daily occurrence for people in the areas of ethnic minorities for decades. Now it has also become everyday life in the big cities of Myanmar. The people flee from the cities to their home villages, Rangoon has become a ghost town.
It would be hard to find an army officer who was not somehow involved in the brutality and murders. The Tatmadaw and their soldiers have to fear that if they are not lynched on the spot, they will have to go to court for crimes against humanity as soon as the military has to relinquish power. Although there are individual soldiers who defected to the popular movement for reasons of conscience, a comprehensive mutiny is not currently imminent. But there is still the possibility of a counter-coup by senior military officers. An outsider, along with some comrades, could take a drastic, desperate step. On the other hand, the military has wisely built up its own all-powerful internal intelligence service, so the chances of this are slim. According to the 2008 Constitution, which was written by the military itself before it took the risk of the 2010 and 2012 elections and the formation of the government led by the NLD of Ms Suu Kyi, 25% of the seats in parliament are held by the military, in addition to the elected deputies of her party. In addition, the three Ministries of Home Affairs, Defence and Border Affairs were placed under their leadership by Constitution.
A department of the Ministry of the Interior was the General Administration Department, which was still created by the British in colonial times for the purpose of administering Burma. The transfer of the General Administration Department from the military-controlled Ministry of the Interior to the civilian Ministry of the Union Government’s Office at the end of 2018 was an important step towards the goal of demilitarizing Myanmar’s governance. It was also an important symbolic achievement for the government of the National League for Democracy.
The GAD is the backbone of the administration in Myanmar, an extensive bureaucratic network with almost 36,000 employees that extends across every state and region, every district, every city and every district or village. The department allows to exercise control to the outermost regions of the country, to implement state policies and to carry out surveillance. When it was part of the Ministry of the Interior, the staff of the GAD were solely responsible to the commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw and not to the civilian administration. The GAD also grants concessions, leases land and sets taxes on wine and tobacco, all areas in which military companies operate.
In 2019, the review of the military’s economic activities in Myanmar has increased. The UN Fact-Finding Mission had published a report accusing companies owned by the military of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In addition, the chief putschist Min Aung Hlaing is at the centre of international investigations into genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The noose around the generals ' necks slowly began to tighten, they had to fear that, after the November elections, which they had lost at a stroke, the new elected government would continue to oust them from the top positions of the administration and restrict their access to the economy, and that the international community would sue them in the Court of Justice in The Hague. Therefore, they sought to escape to the front. That the coup did not come out of hasty panic, but was prepared by a long hand.
Loss of Reality & Propaganda
The myth maintained by the country’s ruling junta and, unfortunately, by some Western academics and “experts” is that the country would fall apart if the military were not in power. We have seen above that exactly the opposite is the case. Myanmar will only become a flourishing country once it is removed from the stranglehold of the Tatmadaw. The country is falling apart precisely because the military is in power. To justify the coup and to enhance its international reputation, the regime has hired the shady PR firm Dickens & Madson for $ 2 million, mainly to sell its coup to the outside world. Dickens & Madson, is a company run by Israeli-Canadian lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe. Dickens & Madson recently signed a contract with the military leadership to “show the real situation in the country” and to prove that the generals had been “misunderstood”. The junta has not yet produced any evidence of electoral fraud, which it cites as the main reason for overthrowing the civilian government. Ben-Menashe has now taken on the task of showing that the election in November 2020 was rigged.
While the parallel government is slowly but surely forming, the Junta government is indulging in illusions: the situation is slowly becoming as grotesque as it was in the Führerbunker, where people hoped for the final victory until the end. The Junta recently celebrated the revival of tourism in Myanmar (!) and the Minister of Investment expects investment to increase again in the coming months. Myanmar’s junta dreams of an upswing as the country sinks into chaos.
The coup was a disaster for Myanmar’s economy. Most banks have been closed since February, and ATMs are empty. The entire banking system has come to a standstill The companies have problems buying raw materials and paying their employees. Sales markets have collapsed, products from military companies and companies working with the military are being boycotted all over the country. Other foreign sanctions are to be expected. As soon as there is no “business as normal”, foreign investors, on the contrary, are about to withdraw from the country and either terminate their business relations with the junta or at least put them on hold until Myanmar has a democratically elected government again. Legal certainty is also needed for business relationships. The junta has no legitimacy, either among the population or as an internationally recognized government of Myanmar.
Day of shame
Tomorrow, Saturday, March 27, is Armed Forces Day. On March 27, 1945, a nationwide uprising against the Japanese occupation of Burma took place to support the Allied advance. Aung San, the founder of the Burmese armed Forces and father of Ms. Suu Kyi, had called for the uprising. Burma was liberated from the Japanese until May 1945. Armed Forces Day is a public holiday in Myanmar. March 27 was celebrated as” Resistance Day “until it was renamed” Armed Forces Day " by the military. National military parades are regularly held on Armed Forces Day. Last year, however, the celebrations had to be cancelled because of Covid-19.
How the celebrations will turn out this year is still uncertain. Many fear further serious clashes between the opponents of the coup and the security forces tomorrow. It is to be feared that the Tatmadaw will set a sign of their strength on this day.
Whatever happens tomorrow, the Tatmadaw are a disgrace to Myanmar. Armed Forces Day will remain a day of shame for Myanmar until the Tatmadaw have disappeared from view.