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.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - Aung­shin@mm­times.com AUNG SHIN

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.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Photo: Sup­plied

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.

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