Tatmadaw reaffirms commitment to Geneva Convention
Following a combined forces drill in Meiktila this weekend, Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing warned all military personnel that they must stick to military codes of conduct, or face legal repercussions.
FOLLOWING a display of military might in an armed forces drill over the weekend, the Tatmadaw chief warned defence personnel that they must strictly follow the Geneva Convention and military code of conduct.
The chiding follows a nearly unprecedented admission of military misconduct. A court martial earlier this month convicted seven soldiers of murdering Shan civilians in a botched interrogation, and sentenced them each to five years in prison.
The Tatamdaw has often been hit with accusations of human rights abuses, especially against ethnic minorities, but admissions of culpability are extremely rare.
“Local people have become victims in conflicts. All of you are to perform your duties in accord with the military code of conduct, especially when we cannot identify whether someone is a friend or enemy. We cannot designate someone as an enemy just because they are in a military zone,” Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told the 5000 assembled military personnel.
If any military personnel fail to follow the code of conduct in the field, legal action will be taken against them, he added.
The senior general delivered the remarks in Meiktila on September 24 following a drill that exercised both land and air fleets. The Tatmadaw chief said the two-day exercise – and the expenditure of much time, money and manpower to conduct it – was necessary to build the capacity of soldiers shouldering the duty of national defence.
Infantry troops, armoured vehicle squads, airforce personnel and an anti-terrorism unit all participated in the combined military exercise which involved several fighter jets. The final day of the exercise included mobilising a 155-millimeter howitzer and 122-millimeter rocket missiles.
“We don’t see any country as a potential enemy. We are just doing this exercise as a conventional war game to build the capacity of our army for conventional war purposes,” said a high-ranking military commander.
The Tatmadaw has conducted at least three such collective trainings combining land and air units since 2011, according to the army’s chief training officer Lieutenant General Maung Maung Aye.
“As the commander-in-chief mentioned, we follow military laws and international rules and regulations in our tasks,” he said.
In a press conference after the drill, he said the “exercise was a success” in terms of building defence skills.
A military officer speaking on condition of anonymity said, “Almost all of the weapons we used were made by and for the Tatmadaw. We have had to rely on our own capabilities for the most part while we were sanctioned.”
The Tatmadaw invited 20 local journalists to observe the drill, which was the first such demonstration open to the press.
“The essence of the military exercise is in the harmonious cooperation of infantry, airforce, artillery and all other supporting forces,” said Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing.
According to the Global Firepower index, which ranks the strength of 126 militaries worldwide, the Tatmadaw comes in at number 33, below Thailand at 20, and just above Malaysia at 34. According to the index, Myanmar has 406,000 active frontline personnel and a defence budget of US$2.4 billion. In the 2016-17 annual budget, the defence ministry received the largest share, with K1.24479 trillion appropriated.
Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (far right) and senior members of the Tatmadaw observe a military drill in Meiktila on September 24.