Promoting Military ties -still muddles through the peace process
The Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing visited Europe at the invitation of the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) in November last year and once more from April 22, by his German counterpart, Chief of Defence of the German Armed Forces General Volker Weiker. His primary goal was to pay a goodwill visit to the Federal Republic of Germany with a stopover in Austria.
According to various news reports, the Tatmadaw or Military goodwill delegation also comprised Chief of the General Staff (Army, Navy, and Air) General Mya Tun Oo and senior military officers of the Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Army).
According to the Commander-in-Chief ’s Facebook page, his delegation visited the Austrian Army Museum in Vienna on April 23, followed by a visit to the Myanmar (Burma) embassy, where he stressed the necessity to learn from industrially developed Austria and apply it at home.
On April 24, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was accorded a guard-of-honour welcome by Chief of Defence Staff of the Austrian Armed Forces General Othmar Commenda at the Austrian Defense Ministry.
During the call, the Senior General said the purpose of the tour was to promote ties between armed forces of the two countries and that the two armed forces could cooperate in many areas, including promoting bilateral relations between the two countries. He stressed that successive Myanmar leaders had recognized European countries as friends and the Senior General invited his counterpart to pay an official goodwill visit to Myanmar
Likewise, Chief of Defence Staff of Austrian Armed Forces said that he took pride in the goodwill visit of the Senior General and expressed his firm belief that the goodwill visit would promote further relations and cooperation. Armed forces from European Union countries wished to enhance friendly ties with the Myanmar Tatmadaw. Strengthening friendly relations between Myanmar and Austrian armed forces would contribute much to relations between the Myanmar Tatmadaw and other EU armed forces. He suggested officers from Myanmar Tatmadaw attend military training courses in Austria.
On the same afternoon, the delegation visited the Diamond Aircraft Industry, where the Commander-in-Chief was flown around on a DA-62 type aircraft around the city of Vienna. The delegation members were welcomed by Chief Executive Officer Mr. Christian Dries and officials of the Diamond Aircraft Industry.
There is speculation that while the Commander-in-Chief would like to materialize his “Standard Army” ambition which he defines as an efficient army, equipped with modern arsenal and rapid logistic infrastructure that could be moved around nd respects human rights he is not yet ready to create a “Professional Army” as in one that takes orders from a civilian government and is subordinate to it.
It is also possible that intends to rekindle the relationship between German Industrial-equipment Company Fritz Werner (Fritz Werner Industrie-Ausrüstungen GmbH), which specializes in weapon production, and has been doing business with Burma since the early 1950s. The company helped Burma in manufacturing the G3 and G4 rifles, but had to withdraw from miltary-to-military relationship, due to EU’s ban on weapon exports after the military crackdown in 1988.
Since the Fritz Werner is owned by the German government, the good relationship remains unbroken and military-to-military contact now seems to be picking up momentum, due to the lifting of various sanctions imposed by the West.
With the re-establishment of a Burmese military attache’s office in Berlin in 2017, employing a full General, the Commander-in-Chief ’s Germany visit could prove highly advantageous for military relations in the future.Min Aung Hlaing’s visit to build better military relations with the EU could pay off, especially with Germany. But arms sales and modern technical knowledge will have to wait given the current arms embargo. For now, the Commander-in-Chief and the Military are determined to only build a standard army and not a professional one, which means the Military is not subordinate to the civilian government.
Min Aung Hlaing has said that only if the country is peaceful, will the Military go back to the barracks, however, if the Military would agree to become a professional army,under civilian control, the resolution of ethnic conflict could be easily obtained and those countries looking to further strengthen ties with the Myanmar Tatmadaw need to consider this before allowing further cooperation.
Myanmar Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing. Photo: Mizzima