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Aman Ullah
RB Analysis
May 16, 2016

“The 1982 Burma Citizenship Law was not fair” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Daw Khin Saw Wai, a Pyithu Hluttaw representative from Rathedaung township, submitted a proposal on May 6 calling on the government to address the citizenship status of Muslims living mainly in Rakhine State whom she referred to as “Bengali”, but who self-identify as Rohingya. According to her, “Bengalis, who are not a national race of Myanmar and come from the Myanmar-Bangladesh area, have illegally entered the country and that causes unrests in the state.” The MP added that she thought it was time to re-start the citizenship scrutinizing process that has been on hiatus since the former government revoked temporary white-cards.

Daw Khin Saw Wai called it “sad” that, despite the enactment of the 1982 Citizenship Law, the citizenship issue has remained unaddressed.

“I firmly believe that we can identify who are fake or real [citizens] if we start inspection under the 1982 Citizenship Law. Otherwise, it allows all illegal residents to move in and out of the country without restriction,” she said.

What is 1982 Citizenship Law?

The Chairman of the Council of State, on 15 October 1982, promulgated a citizenship law as Pyithu Hluttaw law No. 4/1982, which was approved and passed by third session of the Third Pyithu Hluttaw after long six years deliberation within the top echelons of party and state as well as extensive consultations with officials and party leaders of all levels. As it was approved and passed in 1982, it was called “Burma Citizenship Law 1982”. It contains 8 Chapters and 76 sections recognizes three categories of citizens, namely citizen, associate citizen and naturalized citizen, Under that law, citizenships is decided based on prescriptions of laws, not on racial and religions.

In other words we can say that, under the 1982 Citizenship Law there are two types of citizenship: (1) Native Citizenship and (2) Legal Citizenship. 

(1) Native Citizens: Nationals such as Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine, Shan & other ethnic groups who have been settled in the territory of Myanmar since 1823 and their descendants. No one can revoke their citizenship without a strong reason. A "Certificate of citizenship" is issued to them. 

(2) Legal Citizen: Citizens who are not nationals but qualify to become a Myanmar citizen according to the legal framework. The 3rd generation of residents who arrived before 1948 will be issued “Certificate of Citizenship” automatically even though they are not ‘nationals’. 

Within the legal citizenship category there are of two sub-types: 

(2.1) Associate Citizens: People who became Myanmar citizen according to the 1948 citizenship law. A “Certificate of Associate Citizenship” is issued for this category. 

(2.2) Naturalized Citizens: People who had been residing in Myanmar before independence (4th Jan, 1948) and their descendents who have strong supporting evidence and documents that they were eligible for citizenship under the 1948 citizenship law. A “Certificate of Naturalized Citizenship” is issued for this category. 

According to this law, only a person whose parents have had their naturalization of citizenship or a certificate of citizenship or a certificate of guest citizenship can be a citizen. So, apart from these criteria, no one can be a citizen. The 3rd generation of residents who do not have these qualifications cannot be a citizen either. 

Why 1982 Citizenship Law?

Arakan which already is one of the poorest provinces of the country became bad to worse after the military coup. The economical life of the people is intolerable and a large number of Arakanese peoples, Buddhists and Muslim a likes, migrated into Burma Proper such as Rangoon and parts of Lower Burma. When Ne Win Saw a large number of Muslims of Arakan scattered bout in Rangoon and Delta area he imposed a law in 1964, which restricted the movement of Muslims of Arakan especially prohibiting the movement out of Akyab District towards east. Thus, the Muslims of Arakan were put into a sort of imprisonment since 1964.

The authorities, however, could not stop all migration effectively as all routes could not be closed. The late 60s saw a sharp decline in economy; bring about large-scale smuggling across the Burma-Thai border. As Arakan became the poorest province in the country, the Arakanese were forced to leave for the new green pastures which were rising in eastern Burma such as the Shan and Karen States and Moulmein area. 

In 1973 census the authorities again found that Arakanese Muslims had spread up to these eastern borders and other commercially mobile areas such as Mandalay, Pegu, Prome, Maolmein, Bassein, etc. Ne Win did not want that. The Muslims should be in Arakan only so that the Arakanes Buddhists and Arakanese Muslims could use against each other. This was the best way to keep the Arakanese national liberation movement of the Arakanese checked.

But the scenario was not like that, since 1967 rice crisis where Muslims and Buddhist jointly participated in the anti-junta protest march and lost both of their people’s lives, the Arakanese came to realize that they need to forge unity between Buddhists and Muslims to oppose the military regime together. With this vision many Muslims joined the Arakan National Organization led by Bo Gri Kra Hla Aung during 1967. Similarly the Rohingyas librations groups also made alliance with the Arakan National Liberation Party led by U Maung Sein Nyunt. 

Such an alliance alarmed the Rangoon regime. Meanwhile the emergence of the Arakan Independence Organization/Army and Arakan Libration Party under the collaboration with KIO and KNU receptively added much worry to the junta. In 1977 the Ne Win forces wiped out the main army of AIO and ALP, killing their leaders San Kyaw Tun and Khaing Moe Lung respectively along with about 300 men including Muslims. 

This event spread a cloud of misery over the Arakanese population. At the same time, a coup attempt by the Arakanese was foiled. This coup had been planned by Aung Sein Tha, Htin Lin and Kyaw Hla (a) Mustafa Kamal. The Burmese Intelligence openly implicated the Military Attaché in the Bangladesh Embassy in Rangoon in the plot that was expelled and declared persona non grata

General Ne win get a chance to teach a lesson not only to the Rohingya but also Bangladesh Government. He launched an anti-Rohingya military operation in the Code name of King Dragon in the guise of checking illegal immigrant in 1978. About 300,000 Rohingyas had sought refuge across the border in southern Bangladesh amidst widespread reports of army brutality, rape and murder. Under international pressure, Burma agreed to "take back" the Rohingyas in the repatriation agreement with Bangladesh.

However, as the Plan-A of Ne Win was not success then he started with his Plan-B that is a legal instrument which may made all the Rohingya illegal status. Then he tried to draw a citizenship law which later known as the citizenship law 1982.

Ne Win completed this law with the help of Dr. Maung Maung before October 1982. This law was approved and passed by the third session of the Third Pyithu Hluttaw and promulgated by the Chairman of the Council of State, on 15 October 1982. As Ne Win became only Party head since 1981, U San Yu was the then Chairman of the State Council and President.

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) states that the 1982 citizenship law was designed specifically to deny citizenship to the Rohingya. According to the Benjamin Zawacki , a Senior Legal Advisor for Southeast Asia,“The system anchor is the 1982 Citizenship Law, which in both design and implementation effectively denies the right to a nationality to Rohingya people.” 

Reportedly, since the draft law was published in April 1982, at least six members of the 475 strong People’s Assembly—selected in 1982—have resigned because of their foreign ancestry they perhaps feared state appraisal if their origin was exposed later. Under the Section 18 of this Law the penalty for falsifying racial identity is up to ten years of imprisonment and fine of kyats fifty thousand.

It was said that, this law is ingeniously designed to preserve the purity of the Burmese nationality although General Ne Win himself and many of his deputies were Chinese or Chinese origin.

However, before that election, in 1985 the government published and distributed to the peoples of Burma a form called ‘Nain-2’, a 25 pages form including 5 appendix pages. This form has three Chapters; Chapter-1 for at the age of 10 year to 18 year, Chapter-2 for at the age of 18 year and Chapter-3 for at the age of 30 year and 45 year. The applicant needs to give all the particulars information including the history of his/her education and occupation and submit the form with his/her fingerprints of both hands and toe prints of both legs. He/she has to give the particular information of his/her siblings; his/her parents and their siblings, his/her grandparents of both fraternal and maternal sides and their siblings, the parents of all their grandparents and their siblings, the applicant’s children and their children. The particulars, including name, date of birth, place of birth, race & type of citizen, identity card No., and if death-- date and place of the death.

Each and every one of the Rohingya of Arakan timely submitted to the concerned authorities after completely filling the form with Rohingya as their identity. However, no action or reaction was made by the government. But the Rohingyas had enjoyed the right to vote and the right to be elected as people’s representatives to the Organ of State power at different levels in that election in the said election of 1986.

What kind of Law it is?

1. “Every Act shall be promulgated by the President of the Union by publication under his direction in the Gazette.” According to the Article 2 (24) of the Burma General Clauses Act 1898, “Gazette shall mean the Official Gazette for the Union of Burma.” Promulgation is to ensure that a newly enacted law becomes widely known by the public. In other words, it is an act whereby the people are enabled to know the law. A law must be promulgated before it actually takes effect. When a law is promulgated, it is given a serial number and signed by both the state minister responsible for the law and the Prime Minister/President. But This Burma Citizenship Law 1982 did not follow such procedure. Before enacting, it was drafted for many times. On 4th July 1980 in the Government Daily Guardian Newspaper, an official communiqué was published, under the caption: Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma-Law Commission-Paper on Solicitation of Public Opinion Regarding the Drafting of the Citizenship Law. However when actual promulgation was done By U san Yu, the then Chairman of the State Council and President, on 15 October 1982, the law was only published the next day at the state own Working People’s Daily, without under direction of any body or signed by any one.

2. A law is said to "come into effect" or "come into force" when it generally and actually takes effect and starts to apply. Laws usually stipulate in their attached clauses when they come into effect. Most of the laws and acts were attached clauses about the about commencement. For example: -

· The Registration of Foreigners Act 1940, As per article 1, This act shall come into force on the 28th arch 1940.

· The Burma Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1947, as per article 1 (2) It shall come into force at once. 

· The Union Citizenship Act, 1948, as per Article 2 (1) it shall extend to the whole of the Burma and shall be deemed to have come into force on the 4th day of January, 1948.

· Not only that, at the article 6 of this 1982 Citizenship Law there mentioned that,” A person who is already a citizen on the date this Law comes into force is a citizen. The term “the date this Law comes into force” are mentioned in the articles 38, 43, 45, 52, and 61 of this 1982 citizenship law also. Thus, mentioning when the law or the act come into effect of into force is very much essential parts of this Law. Without this one cannot say that this Law is in force or not and it will remain as silent law. This 1982 Citizenship Law, Pyithu Hluttaw law No. 1982/4, neither mention the date of commencement as the part of this law nor there were enactment or resolution regarding this in any next sessions of parliament.

3. The Citizenship Law contravenes several international human rights standards, including Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Insofar as its application condemns large numbers of people to second-class status and is grossly discriminatory against ethnic minorities, it infringes the prohibition against discrimination on the grounds of race, religion or national or social origin. The law also violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Burma under the SLORC has ratified, and under which States are obliged to "respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality..." and for every child immediately after birth to have the right to acquire a nationality.

4. This law, which was promulgated o deliberately deny the citizenship of the persons who had previously been recognized as citizen, is even more objectionable in so far as it was applied in an ex-post facto manner in contradiction to the international legal standards. 

5. This law was most controversial, vague, randomly interpreted and arbitrarily applied.

6. Although the 1982 Citizenship Law was enacted in 1982, the authorities never show their serious concern to implement it during Ne Win times or SLORC and SPDC period. However, after coming to the power by the present government became very serious on this matter. 

7. They try to implement the Citizenship Law only on the Rohingya. Although, there are more than a half million of Bangladeshi Buddhist who have entered in Arakan, during post independent day, they government did nothing against them. There are more than 20 million Chinese legally and illegally entered into Burma since SLORC regime. They are super class citizens of the country. They can do and can’t do anything they want. The whole Burma is now their father-in-law’s home.

8. U Khin Yi, the Union Minister for Immigration and Population Affairs, in his speech in Parliament on 18 June 2013, he mentioned that, “Even though they are Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Burma, Mon, Rakhine and Shan, they are not national races if they permanently live in other countries, not in Myanmar. Same national races who have settled in Myanmar after 1824 are not indigenous races. So they are not citizens by birth. The law also states that national races who acquire citizenship of other countries and persons born of parents, both of whom are those foreign citizens cannot become Myanmar citizens”. But he and his government do not make any concern to these Chinese and Bangladeshi Buddhists issue. Their only interest is to wipe out the identity and existence of Rohingya from the soil of Arakan. 

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Aman Ullah
RB Analysis
January 4, 2015

“The compensation did not equal the real value of the land. We can’t buy another plot of land with that money. No one wants to lose their land. What they did to us is sinking our life. We made our living with this land and now we don’t know how to continue our life anymore.” A victim village

China’s CITIC Group Corporation has won two contracts related to a special economic zone in western Myanmar including building a deep sea port on the Bay of Bengal on December 31. CITIC’s consortia (including China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd., China Merchants Holdings, TEDA Investment Holding, and Yunnan Construction Engineering Group) will lead projects to build the port as well as an industrial area at the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh to the north and the Bay of Bengal to the west.

Kyauk Phyu Special Economic Zone is located on Kyauk Phyu Township of Burma’s Arakan State. Over 200,000 people live in the township. Farming and fishing are the main livelihoods in this quiet and rural area, which has numerous tidal channels and creeks. However, in the last few years the Shwe gas and oil pipelines project has disrupted local communities, with confiscation of farm lands and loss of fishing areas leading to migration from the area.

Myanmar's parliament approved it on December 29 despite opposition from activists and lawmakers who criticized the tender process and said the development would have a negative impact on the people.

Kyaukpyu is of particular interest to China because overland links between Myanmar and southern China can reduce reliance on the potential chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca. By eliminating the need to travel via the Strait of Malacca, Kyaukpyu Port would save about 5,000 kilometers in sailing distance for shipments traveling to China from India and points beyond. The drive to diversify its shipping routes – and to increase economic clout in neighboring countries – is a major impetus behind the new “Belt and Road” initiative, which envisions infrastructure and trade networks linking China with every part of the Eurasian continent.

Why does China want the Kyauk Phyu Special Economic Zone?

In 2006, China’s president Hu Jintao outlined a new “going global” strategy, which included an increase in the number of Chinese Special Economic Zones globally. The main stated reasons were to find new markets for Chinese goods and services, build up Chinese brand names and increase China’s foreign investments.

A Free Trade Agreement between China and the ASEAN nations signed in 2010 created further incentives for trade between the nations. The Kyauk Phyu project will be China’s largest SEZ project in Southeast Asia and according to the feasibility study, the ASEAN market will be targeted through “export-oriented” manufacturing and processing industries.

In December 2009 and February 2011, China and Burma signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) for the construction of the Kyauk Phyu Economic and Technological Development Zone. Under the MOU with Burma’s Ministry of Planning and Economic Development and CITIC Group will construct a Special Economic Zone, including expansion of a deep sea port, railway, airport and industrial areas. Its subsidiary CITIC Construction Company Limited has made further agreements to cooperate on this project with the Htoo Company, owned by military crony Tay Za.

According to a feasibility study1 by CITIC Construction Company, the zone will require an initial investment of US$ 8.3 billion and a total US$ 89.2 billion over 35 years, using 120 Km² (30,000 acres) of land as well as 70 Km² of waterways.

The Zone will be included with the following three clusters: -

1. City Cluster (28 km²)

· 2,000 MW power plant (unspecified fuel source),
· Industrial water and sewage plants
· Residential areas, business centres, hospitals, schools and tourist areas.

2. Logistics Cluster (24 km²)

· Airport expansion
· 250 million-ton capacity wharfs to accommodate 300,000-ton freighters.
· Sea port
· Railway and logistics park to store 10 million tons of goods.

3. Industrial Cluster (40 km²)
Oil refinery and petrochemical industries (12 km²)

- Refined oil, 10 million tons/year
- Ethylene, 800,000 tons/year
- Other petrolchemical products, 1.5 million tons/year
- Fertilizer, LNG etc, 3 million tons/year

• Metal Industries (14 km²)

- Iron and steel, 5 million tons/year
- Other refined metals, 300,000 tons/year

• Marine Service Industry (3 km²)

- Two marine docks to service regional shipping traffic and dismantle old ships for sale of materials.

• Processing and manufacturing industries (11 km²)

- Agricultural and aquatic products, gems and wood.
- Textiles, metal, plastics, car parts and electrical appliances.

The Impacts of the Zone and Devastation of Livelihoods

The construction of the Special Economic Zone will multiply the already unfolding impacts of the Burma-China oil and gas pipelines. Massive industrialization will have devastating consequences for tens of thousands of farmers and fishermen who have been neither informed nor consulted about the plans.

Land confiscation and relocation of villages

According to project maps, the 120 km² zone could lead to the relocation of about 40 villages as well as parts of Kyauk Phyu town. This, in addition to the loss of large areas of farmlands, will directly affect tens of thousands of people. Neither of these communities nor local government officials have been informed or consulted about the project. Construction of the Shwe pipelines and associated infrastructure has already led to the confiscation of thousands of acres of valuable farmlands. Most of these confiscations were involuntary.

Impact on Jobs 

CITIC’s feasibility study claims that the SEZ will bring over 100,000 new jobs to the area in the first phase. However, the skill levels required for the industries in the zone and the hiring patterns of Chinese companies globally will mean that most of the labour pool is likely to come from outside Kyauk Phyu. The construction of China’s oil and gas pipelines already illustrates this: local people were able to obtain only low wage and temporary work clearing land and constructing roads while skilled jobs were given to workers from China, India and central Burma. In addition, due to the loss of farmlands, many villagers were forced to migrate to work in neighboring countries.

Impact on fisheries

The construction of wharfs and coastland industries for the zone will directly impact a minimum of 70 Km² of coastal waterways. The frequent traffic of up to 300,000-ton freighters and deep sea fishing in the corridor leading into the deep sea port will likely destroy the local small-scale fishing industries. Toxic wastes and pollution from shipping and industries will threaten fish stocks and the local ecology. Exploration of the Shwe gas fields and construction of an undersea pipeline, which involved dynamiting coral reefs, have already depleted fish populations and restricted access to fishing grounds for local fisher folk.

Exacerbating water scarcity

Communities in Kyuk Phyu face chronic water shortages at the end of every dry season. This particularly impacts women as they are the traditional gatherers of water. Industrial complexes such as those planned in Kyauk Phyu use huge amounts of water. It is estimated that the SEZ would use approximately 3.6 million cubic metres of fresh water per day, or 1,314 million cubic metres per year. This would affect the surrounding farmlands and put critical strain on the daily lives of local communities.

Impact on Mangrove Forest 

The zone threatens to devastate Burma’s second largest mangrove forest, which lines the coastal areas of Kyauk Phyu and neighbouring Ramree Township. The mangroves provide a crucial habitat for a large number of marine species as well as protection from natural disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis. There is a high risk that toxic waste from petrochemical and other industries will cause irreparable damage to the sensitive mangrove ecosystem.

Toxic petrochemical and metal industries

CITIC Group’s feasibility study provides no detailed information about planned processing stages in the production of petroleum products, ethylene, and related petrochemical products as well as production of iron and steel. Despite the threat of toxic waste, pollution and accidents, neither CITIC nor the government has conducted any of the following impact assessments: -

Petrochemical products, such as refined oil, ethylene and chemical fertilizer

· Air pollution from smoke stacks, including
· sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide;
· waste water, including ammonia, cyanide and
· heavy metals, contamination of ground water;
· fire and explosions of flammable toxic chemicals;
· oil spills

Iron and steel

· Air pollution from smoke stacks, including
· sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide;
· waste water, including ammonia and cyanide,
· contamination of ground water;
· large amounts of slag waste and dust, which can
· Contaminate ground water.

Lessons from Other Industrial Zones

The Kyauk Phyu Special Economic Zone will be five times larger than the controversial Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Thailand’s eastern province of Rayong. Built in 1988, Map Ta Phut includes a deep sea port and the largest centre of petrochemical industries in Thailand.

Environmental organizations and local communities have fought to close down the factories due to extremely high cancer-related deaths - 2,000 since 1990 -serious pollution of shallow well water, water shortages and air pollution.

Numerous accidents have taken place in Map Ta Phut over the last decades, most recently in May 2012 when explosions and a fire broke out in a petrochemical factory, killing 12 and injuring 129 people. The next day a chemical leakage in another nearby factory hospitalized 138 workers.

Due to public pressure, petrochemical industries cannot further expand in Thailand, which has led to relocating these harmful industries to Burma through the development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone. 

Industrial zones in China are causing high levels of pollution, posing risks to the environment and surrounding communities, stated a report by the China Environment Federation. These negative impacts are increasingly causing public protests by affected people.

In 1994 the CITIC Group developed the Da Xie Special Economic Zone, including Port facilities as well as petro chemical industries similar to those planned in Kyauk Phyu. The controversial project caused damage to the environment and livelihoods of surrounding communities.

A major issue was that the Da Xie industries required much more water than originally planned, leading to serious local water shortages.

In 2005, nearby villagers staged a protest outside the SEZ in response to flooding of the surrounding areas, and blamed the companies for poor drainage systems. A year later, over 100 kg of liquid chlorine leaked into the surrounding farmland and communities, destroying crops up to a kilometer away. Within five days of the accident, 678 villagers from the surrounding area had visited hospital reporting dizziness, coughing and skin irritations as a result of the leakage.

Complaints were also made that the Da Xie SEZ management had withheld information about the leakage and continued production for three days as if nothing had happened. Following an investigation in 2007, an Environmental Impact Tracking Evaluation report stated risks further chemical leakage and oil spills had still not been mitigated.

CITIC claims in its feasibility study that it will follow the laws and standards of Burma, including its environmental laws. However, an environmental law passed by Burma’s parliament in March 2012 lacks many crucial provisions for protection of people and the environment, including specific standards for how Environmental and Social Impact Assessments should be carried out.

It also does not include any mechanisms for public disclosure, Health or Human Rights Impact Assessments, Strategic Environmental Assessments or clear waste management procedures.

Moreover, Burma does not have laws that force government or foreign investors to publicly disclose contractual details of development plans, nor does it have adequate mechanisms to ensure that revenues are managed accountably and transparently. This would fuel corrupt practices.

Important provisions for community protection

· Before any development project commences, the affected communities must be given full information about project plans and impacts on their lives, which is called Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). They can then analyze and discuss, without coercion, whether to give consent to the project, and to demand any necessary changes or conditions to the plan. FPIC has been adopted by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

· There must be a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which can include economic and social issues. It links to national policies, examines alternatives and stresses sustainability. It should precede an EIA.

· Environmental, Social, Health and Human Rights Impact Assessments (EIA, SIA, HIA, and HRIA) are separate assessments analyzing different impacts of a planned project. These assessments should be completed and disclosed to affected communities for input before projects are approved, in order to prevent or minimize any negative impacts.

No adequate standards or mechanisms

According to the Arakan Oil Watch (AOW), an independent non-governmental community based organization, in light of massive increased interest of foreign investors in Burma, we must prioritize sustainable and healthy development that puts the people of Burma and its environment first. Projects such as the Kyauk Phyu Special Economic Zone threaten the lives of impacted communities and the environment, setting a dangerous precedent for other similar development projects in Burma.

Arakan Oil Watch therefore believes that the project should be suspended until the following recommendations have been fulfilled:

· CITIC and the government of Burma must disclose detailed project information to the public, in particular to affected communities as well as related political parties and civil society organisations.

· Affected communities must give Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) before project commencement.

· Thorough Strategic Environment Assessments (SEA) as well as Environment, Social, Health and Human Rights Impact Assessments (EIA, SIA, HIA and HRIA) must be implemented and disclosed to the public before project commencement.

· Local affected people must have a choice to decide whether to give up their homes and land for agreed upon compensation, without coercion or threats.

· Protection of environment, human rights and livelihoods must follow international standards and allow independent monitoring by civil society organizations, including testing of pollution and waste in affected communities.

· There must be a plan detailing how the use of local labour will be prioritized and local personnel trained to benefit from job creation.

· Financial streams must be transparent and publicly disclosed.

Aman Ullah
RB Analysis
June 21, 2015

“Human security means that people can exercise [their] choices safely and freely – and that they can be relatively confident that the opportunities they have today are not totally lost tomorrow.” -- UNDP

Human security is a universal concern of human life and dignity. The consequences of human security issues such as famine, disease, and ethnic disputes do not stay within national borders. Rather, the international community is affected by them. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “human security means that people can exercise [their] choices safely and freely – and that they can be relatively confident that the opportunities they have today are not totally lost tomorrow.” Human security has two primary aspects. First, it means safety from “chronic threats [such] as hunger, disease and repression.” Second, it constitutes “protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life – whether in homes, in jobs or in communities.” The Rohingya are deprived of human security in both of these facets due to their lack of citizenship within Myanmar.

The concept of human security stresses the necessity for people to have the opportunity to meet essential needs and earn a living. It is an integrative concept rather than a defensive concept in the way that territorial security is defined. Security for people occurs only when all people are included in a country’s development. The Rohingya are not included in Myanmar’s development; rather, they receive no state protection because they are excluded from citizenship in the country. In fact, the right to citizenship, or a nationality is “widely recognized as a fundamental human right.” Thus, the exclusion of the Rohingya from citizenship within Myanmar is a violation of their human rights and renders them fundamentally insecure.

The human right not to be stateless is codified as an international norm in article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that ‘every person has the right to a nationality and that this nationality cannot be arbitrarily denied’. This right is also recognized in the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which requires signatories to provide citizenship for persons who may otherwise be stateless.

This includes provisions for persons born within a state’s borders to be granted citizenship and for states to prevent situations whereby a person may lose his or her citizenship without gaining another. The human right to a nationality is important because citizenship is necessary to fully exercise civil, political, economic, and social rights within that state’s territory. Nationality also enables an individual to receive protection by their nation both domestically and internationally. Without citizenship, the Rohingya receive no protection within Myanmar or abroad.

The Myanmar government has removed all human security from the Rohingya population. Rather, the discrimination inflicted upon the Rohingya in Myanmar constitutes a state policy of ethnic cleansing against them. According to Anthony Oberschall, “ethnic cleansing is the use of force or intimidation for removing people of a certain ethnic or religious group from an area or territory that is their homeland. It used to be called ‘mass deportations.’”

Myanmar’s violation of Rohingya human rights are specifically targeted against the Rohingya ethnic group. Crimes that take place during ethnic cleansing include: . . . murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, executions, rape and sexual assault, military and paramilitary attacks on civilians, robbery and extortion, destruction of cultural and religious buildings and monuments, destruction of homes, confinement of civilians in camps, purposeful starvation, and some others. . . . The purpose of these crimes is to get the target population to flee (kill and assault some, and the others will flee), to rob its property and make it destitute, to administer extra-legal punishment and revenge for alleged disloyalty or helping enemies, and to prevent return by having nothing to return for. Every one of these crimes exists in Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya. Local Rakhine leaders use the Rohingya as a convenient scapegoat for all of their society’s failings, and national politicians support discrimination against the Rohingya as a popular vote-getting scheme.

The stateless Rohingya receive no protection as a result of Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, and they are targeted with threats to their security under six of the seven main categories recognized by the UNDP: political, economic, food, health, personal, and community. (1994, HDR) 

Political Security

The Rohingya suffer political insecurity through their exclusion from the political process and through the state’s policy of discrimination against them. Political security means the protection of basic human rights by the state and freedom from political repression. In stark contrast to this definition, the Rohingya are the target of human rights violations and have no civil or political rights under the Myanmar political system. The Rohingya have been excluded entirely from the formation of the Rakhine state government and the Myanmar central government.

Since the government excluded the Rohingya from Myanmar citizenship, they are given no political rights. As a result, they are frequently the subject of state repression. For example, the stateless Rohingya are regularly the victim of arbitrary detention in Myanmar. According to the UNDP, the police are common agents of state repression. State security forces in Myanmar habitually enforce checkpoints to restrict the movement of Rohingya within the country. They have a history of failing to protect the Rohingya from, and sometimes participating in, ethnic riots. Rather than receive protection from the state, the Rohingya are the target of institutionalized discrimination.

Economic Security

The Rohingya are marginalized economically in Myanmar due to their stateless status. Economic security requires “an assured basic income – usually from productive and remunerative work or in the last resort from some publicly financed safety net.” Employers are afraid of hiring undocumented people, so the Rohingya are unable to gain beneficial, long-term employment. Instead, they must rely on ‘daily work’ of poorly paid manual labor that does not last for long periods of time. The Rohingya have lived under movement restrictions for many years, and, since 2012, there has been an increase in government checkpoints, which further limit their ability to access essential services and to make a living. The Rohingya are regularly subject to extortion and arbitrary taxation of what meager money they acquire. They do not receive any economic support from the government, and they are unable to provide for the essentials of life. The pitfall of economic, or income, insecurity has serious repercussions on their ability to secure access to food.

Food Security

Food security requires that people have access to food, either by growing it, buying it, or acquiring it through a public food distribution system. Even when there is enough food available, people can still starve when they are unable to purchase or obtain food. Food security is a significant concern throughout Myanmar. Malnutrition is common with about 35 percent of infants, and continual inflation undercuts the ability of Myanmar’s poor to purchase basic foods, such as rice. For the marginalized Rohingya, the issue of food security is even worse. Without access to gainful employment, the Rohingya are unable to purchase food. They are subject to compulsory food donations, deliberate food shortages, and land confiscations by the state. Food security issues are worse for the Rohingya living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps since the 2012 ethnic riots, which will be described in detail in part three of this chapter. Many Rohingya starve from lack of food.

Health Security

Rohingya have little to no health security. Health security means the prevention of death by poor nutrition and an unsafe environment, such as polluted water which contributes to diarrhea. Denial of access to health services aggravates the conditions.

According to the UNDP, developing countries spend little on health care and those at greatest risk for health security cannot afford doctors. In the case of Myanmar, health security for all citizens is abysmal. The government spends only 0.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on health services. Medicines are largely unavailable except to the wealthy or well connected. Malaria (700,000 cases per year), tuberculosis (130,000 per year), and HIV/AIDS (estimated 350,000 cases in 2005) are common in Myanmar. As for the stateless Rohingya, their condition is even worse as they are denied access to what meager social service of health care exists in Myanmar.

Within the IDP camps, health aid does not exist and there are near daily reports of Rohingya deaths from preventable conditions. Many of these deaths occur when pregnant women face birth complications. Due to movement restrictions and their lack of citizenship, Rohingya cannot travel to see a doctor. The Myanmar government has exacerbated health issues in the IDP camps by restricting access by humanitarian aid groups, which primarily provide medical attention and food to the Rohingya. In addition to the lack of medical attention, Rohingya in the IDP camps do not have access to safe water or sufficient latrines. These conditions accelerate the spread of disease in the camps with the result that the Rohingya regularly die of diseases, which could otherwise be prevented.

Personal Security

One of the most conspicuous forms of discrimination against the Rohingya involves violations of their personal security. Personal security from physical violence is the most prominent aspect of human security, with threats from other groups of people in ethnic conflict as primary threats to personal security. UN institutions have carefully documented over two decades of human rights abuses against the Rohingya, which include systematic killings, rapes, and forced labor as a part of state policy.

Rohingya are routinely targeted with land confiscations and forced relocations. Local authorities have a history of refusing to protect the Rohingya against discrimination and violence in their communities. In 2001 and 2002, state security forces failed to intervene and sometimes participated in widespread mob attacks against Muslim communities across the country, which resulted in an unknown number of deaths and injuries. In some cases, local authorities increased tensions by encouraging the violence and intervening only at a late stage of the violence to end it.

Community Security

Rohingya communities are discriminated against as a whole in Myanmar without any state protection. Threats to community security endanger human security because “most people derive security from their membership in a group,” such as the Rohingya ethnic group, that provides cultural identity and a common set of values. The Muslim Rohingyas face threats against their community due to their Muslim religion and expressions of their faith, as well as their stateless status. The Rohingya are restricted from access to state-run secondary education, and the Myanmar government restricts Rohingya high school graduates from travelling outside Rakhine state to attend college or university. The Rohingya are required to obtain government permission to marry and are restricted in the number of children they can have legally. Myanmar government authorities restrict gatherings to celebrate Islamic holidays and do not permit repairs to mosques. Simply being a member of the Muslim Rohingya ethnic group invites persecution in Myanmar. Discrimination against the Rohingya cripples their community’s ability to provide security for its members.

Who is chewing up Myanmar or Burma?

By Maung Zarni

Evolution of a mafia state in Myanmar

Despite being in power for over half a century, Myanmar's military, both its despotic leadership and institutional instruments, namely the Tatmadaw, or armed forces, remains an enigma. It is the black hole of understanding in the literature, research and reporting produced about a country that suddenly finds itself in the limelight after decades of international isolation. 

The world is well-acquainted with opposition leader and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi - her political beliefs, her inspiring personal tale, and her pedigree as the daughter of Myanmar's independence hero, General Aung San. Even her aesthetic tastes are well-publicized, as are the abuses and acts of persecution she has endured at the hands of the military.

And yet the world knows surprisingly little about the country's dictatorship, despite its decades of repressive military rule and the exceedingly negative impact it has had on Myanmar's society, culture, economy, politics, and foreign relations. This is not surprising since dictatorships typically thrive on secrecy about their modus operandi and the resultant confusion among the oppressed. 

Myanmar's military dictatorship, now under the guise of President Thein Sein's "democratic" administration, is no exception. In contrast, iconic dissidents such as Suu Kyi and opposition movements can only sustain their relevance and popular support by making their views and strategies accessible to their friends and supporters, as well as opponents and detractors. Systems of political repression strive to paralyze the domestic public and its international supporters, while liberation struggles seek to mobilize both. 

Myanmar's military rulers, despite their often-reported ignorance, are far better informed about the world than they are given credit for. Still, the West continues to deliberate about what will help to nudge them out of darkness. The military despots may feign strategic ignorance, but it would be a mistake to underestimate their knowledge of the geopolitical space their country occupies. 

As a Burmese saying goes, "the ruler has 1,000 ears". According to Kyaw Thet, former professor of international relations and history at Rangoon University, former dictator General Ne Win sent one of his personal assistants to fetch a copy of Kyaw Thet's doctoral thesis, which examined Sino-Burmese relations. In Kyaw Thet's words, "(of all people) the General was the only one who showed a genuine interest in my thesis." 

The current aging despot Senior General Than Shwe, a former instructor at the now defunct Central School of Political Science at Chawtwingone, leader of the previous ruling junta and current behind-the-scenes mastermind of the country's supposed transition to democracy, is known among the staff of the Myanmar's foreign and defense ministries to have a keen interest in strategic ideas about international relations. 

Before the relocation of the old capital Yangon to the purpose-built new military capital at Naypyidaw in November 2005, Than Shwe was known to have surprised the staff at the National Defense University, the country's highest-level staff college for upwardly mobile military officers, by attending class discussions and listening to seminars. 

Over this half-century, successive military rulers have adopted a successful strategy of keeping their inner circles and the institution of military as little understood or "readable" as possible, by friends and foes alike. 

Even Beijing, the regime's most important international supporter and business partner, was left in the dark about the regime's plan to relocate the entire administrative capital to Naypyidaw, an effective military fortress complete with North Korean-designed underground bunkers and escape tunnels. Regardless of the Chinese leadership's reported irritation, the military typically takes enormous pride in keeping its internal affairs and modus operandi secretive, unpredictable and under-studied. 

An illustrative motto "Reveal little, listen, look and gather all you can" is posted on the door of former Military Intelligence Unit Number 7 on Yangon's Halpin Road sums up the military's strategic stance on informational and institutional secrecy. Notably, it is considered treason for rank and file members to communicate with foreigners without prior authorization. Those who are officially assigned to liaise with foreign visitors of all national backgrounds are highly trained and unlikely to leak any meaningful revelations. 

During the first military dictatorship of General Ne Win (1962-88), in the mid-1970s the regime relaxed these restrictions to a degree by allowing some of its top commanders to mingle with Western diplomats and military attaches. Declassified US embassy cables from that period by its diplomatic intelligence unit in Yangon indicate that ex-Brigadier Thaung Dan, former Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff and a graduate of the Japanese Military Academy in the 1940's, would make personal requests to US embassy staff to get certain books, such as Dr Ba Maw's Breakthrough in Burma, at a time they were banned by the regime. 

Former Defense Minister ex-General Tin Oo (now the 82-year-old vice-chair of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party) was even allowed to play tennis with Western diplomats by the mid-1970s. Restrictions on such contacts with foreign diplomats were tightened again after the end of Ne Win's rule. Headquartered in the remote new capital Naypyidaw, despite all the pretensions of liberalizing the country, the military is increasingly inaccessible to the West. 

Over the past five decades, only two foreign scholars have been granted limited access to the army archives at the Ministry of Defense. They are Robert H Taylor and Mary Callahan, political scientists who respectively authored The State in Myanmar (1987) and Making Enemies: War and State Building in Burma (2003). 

After a serious vetting process by military intelligence and blessings from the highest level of authority, both Ne Win's and Than Shwe's regimes officially allowed these Americans into the country as researchers, Taylor in the early 1970s and 1980s and Callahan a decade later. Even then, no archival materials dated after March 2, 1962, the date of Ne Win's military coup, were made accessible to either researcher. 

The limited knowledge of Myanmar's military dictatorship and the military as their institutional base of power is the intended outcome of a deliberate strategy of information and data control. The resultant ignorance about the generals and their world, and the generals' studied display of ignorance about the outside world, has served the dictatorship well. The generals have apparently taken Sun Tsu's advice, "confuse your enemies", to heart as official policy. 

Notional nationalism
On the eve of Myanmar's 1988 popular uprisings, a decorated soldier with the rank of major remarked candidly to this writer that the Tatmadaw which he served had morphed from a once venerable nationalist institution into the country's largest mafia, soaked in corruption and rotten to its core, with all the manifest characteristics of a criminal network. 

Sitting in his office in a military compound and looking deeply dismayed, the officer mocked the long-cherished popular notion of "soldiers as ultimate patriots." "We call ourselves patriots and nationalists. All we do is steal from the people and rob them of their future. This whole army stinks," he said. "My wife has to suck up the wife of my boss. The guy below me licks my boots and I have to do the same with my superiors. If I want to climb the career ladder I have to pay my commanding officer. This chain of bribery and corruption is pervasive." 

His final solemn words of advice: "So don't come back here [to Myanmar, then known as Burma]. Find greener pastures and settle there." 

The overwhelming majority of foreign writers, experts and diplomats usually find Myanmar's military dictatorship morally repugnant and show varying degrees of disdain towards its ruling generals. And yet many of them would not hesitate to use the term "nationalist" to describe the motivations of military personnel. What moved a decorated soldier to speak unequivocally ill of his "surrogate parents", the army, while many scholars and journalists who have never met a flesh-and-blood Myanmar soldier and/or set foot in a military compound refer to the very same institution as "nationalistic"? 

"Soldiers' surrogate parents" is a special term the Ministry of Defense Directorate of Psychological Warfare has coined and promulgated among the military's rank and file. It is deployed specifically to remind them that their primary allegiance is to the armed forces, which to the Tatmadaw is coterminous with the sovereign Myanmar nation-state. 

Upon hearing speculation about possible reforms that would arise from the formation of a new cabinet and new parliament in April 2010, a former junior general who was forced to retire and is now resident in Yangon remarked to a foreign visitor that the new generation of rising military officers would be more "interested in getting to the buffet table than launching genuine reforms to address the concerns of public welfare". 

That was in early 2010, two decades after my officer friend described the military, his employer, as a "national mafia". And yet one often hears policy-makers and the popular press make reference to the country's military rulers and the military institution as fiercely "nationalistic", as if this presumed patriotism explains and justifies the generals' behavior, policies and practices. 

So what lies within the regime's "nationalism" and why does it qualify as genuine? Do "national level mafias" have ideologies that can be glorified as nationalism in the most elemental sense of advancing the interests and agenda of one's own "(presumably) mono-ethnic nation" within and without its recognized territorial confines? 

Since its inception as a revolutionary armed force in 1942, Myanmar's military has witnessed a regressive evolution. At the outset, the military was generally a popular nationalist institution, which helped restore a sense of national pride among the dominant Burmese, or Bama, majority. 

Ethnic Burmese had been barred by British colonial rulers from carrying knives bigger than pencil sharpeners, while at the same time the British recruited large numbers of exclusively non-Burmese ethnic groups into its local imperial army, organizing them in ethnic-based battalions such as the Chin Rifles, Kachin Rifles, and so on. 

While nationalism was used to mobilize support for the armed forces in the period immediately after independence was achieved in 1948, by 1962 the armed forces were blowing up nationalist symbols such as Rangoon University's student union building and indiscriminately killing unarmed students on the same campus in the name of national security. 

At the second party Congress in 1968, San Yu, who was second in command of Ne Win's Revolutionary Council government, officially declared that that the newly established Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) and its nucleus of military officers considered both politically active students and Buddhist monks as "enemies of the state." 

The regime's bloody crackdown, including raids on hundreds of monasteries and indiscriminate shooting and killing of students and monks, during the 2007 Saffron Revolt (of the saffron-color-robed monks) is only the best known and most recent event in a long-running tension between these two groups and the military-dominated state. 

The same military regime, fronted by President Thein Sein, internally discriminates against military officers of Christian faith, denies Muslim Rohingyas the right to nationality resulting in systematic abuse and exploitation, loots local ethnic Karen villages, scavenges from rural populations, and condones the rape of ethnic minority women and girls by military personnel in the country's eastern war zones. 

The Tatmadaw also jails and tortures the political opposition, auctions off without accountability irreplaceable natural assets such as rivers, forests, minerals, and natural gas, confiscates thousands of acres of virgin lands from minorities for the development of mono-crop agro-business with no compensation to the latter, forcibly relocates hundreds of villages in conflict zones, and uses innocent villagers and prison convicts alike as "human mine-sweepers" and porters during military operations. 

As recently as March 2010, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Tomas Quintana, repeated his official calls to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to establish a UN-led Commission of Inquiry to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the military-ruled country, a call that has been backed by several previous Special Rapporteurs and Harvard University Law School's International Human Rights Clinic. 

The historic lack of accountability in the armed forces has fostered Myanmar's contemporary mafia state. During his address at the annual conference of the Commanding Officers of the Defense Services on September 9, 1957, U Nu, Myanmar's first prime minister (and the last democratically elected one before the coup of 1962), spoke these prophetic words: 

There are generally two different types of armies: a truly national people's army, and a pocket army for the powers that be ... The primary task of a truly national people's army is to protect the lives and property of the people," said U Nu. "Thus in countries which have truly national people's armies, the people do not go about in fear of the army. A pocket army's primary task is to protect the lives, property, status and vested interests of the party or the individuals who are exploiting the pocket army. (As such), the people have no regard or respect for the army, but only a great loathing and fear. Whatever the nomenclature, "a national mafia" or "pocket army", today's Tatmadaw is without doubt as widely feared as it is loathed among Myanmar's people. The military's regressive evolution in terms of its institutional ethos, culture, and practices have created its current mafia-like nature. A mafia mindset has infected the beliefs and attitudes of those who lead, manage and man this omnipresent organization, the self-proclaimed guardian of the national interest in Myanmar's supposed new democracy. 

Fascist roots, rewritten histories

One of the best known historical facts about Myanmar's armed forces is that it was originally the product of fascist Japan's military strategy to recruit, train and arm local nationalist elements in Asia against British and Allied forces during World War II. 

Subbas Chandra Bose of the Congress Party and Aung San of the Burma Freedom Bloc, the respective founders of the Indian Independence Army (IIA) and the Burma Independence Army (BIA), both rose to prominence under Japan's strategic patronage. While Tokyo's efforts at using the IIA as its local proxy to repel the British out of the Indian sub-continent ultimately failed, Japan's sway over the nationalists they trained and armed to become the nucleus of the BIA was successful but short-lived in the country then known as Burma. 
It was only three years, from 1942-45, before the Burmese turned against the Japanese. Upon entering and replacing British colonial rule with its own military occupation, Tokyo reneged on its promise to grant independence in exchange for local assistance to its war effort under the fascist banner of "Asia for Asians". 

The original Burmese admiration for Japan as the most dominant non-European global power was based primarily on its military victory in the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. But 40 years after its victory over Tsarist Russia, Japan had not only lost its political and military independence to the United States but also its standing in the eyes of the Burmese. 

Despite the special psychological ties with its former Burmese military proxies, which some Japanese veterans maintained decades after World War II ended, Japan's influence over the Myanmar military was minimal after the humiliation of its "total surrender" to the United States and Allied Forces in August 1945. 

Even if Japanese veterans aspired to revive old military ties, it would have been inconceivable under Japan's US-imposed constitution, which barred Tokyo from maintaining its own national armed forces. Instead, Burmese nationalists, both civilians and their military comrades, looked to the new victors, namely the US, as a source of support and new great power inspiration. 

The Cold War indelibly shaped Myanmar's military as a standing armed organization, as did developments outside the military's institutional boundaries. These included relations and competition with other constitutive elements of the new modern state, including political parties, business and commercial elites, autonomy or independence-minded ethnic minority groups, and an armed communist resistance movement. 

While the civilian democratic government of U Nu was a prominent player in the then newly hatched Non-Aligned Movement, military leaders such as Brigadier Maung Maung, a personal staff officer assigned to Aung San during the Japanese occupation period, were developing ties with and seeking support from the US and, to a lesser extent, the UK. They sought outside assistance specifically for the military's expansion, qualitative upgrades of its weaponry, and the build-up of a human resource base of cadets and officers. 

As powerful head of the Directorate of Military Training (DMT), Maung Maung was hugely influential in shaping a new generation of military officers as he presided over the founding of both the military's most prestigious Defense Services Academy (DSA) and most advanced staff college, the National Defense College (NDC), in the mid-1950s. Many members of the faculty in these institutions were drawn from Burmese graduates of Britain's Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and the US's Staff and Command Colleges. 

The fact that the military, then under the leadership of commanders and directors who received their training from the Japanese, made a conscious decision to model the military's command structures, its human resource development and intelligence training on the United States' military discounts explanations of the institution's current unseemly conduct on its original links to fascist Japan. 

For its part, the US more or less embraced mildly socialist, nationalist civilian politicians such as U Nu, Ba Swe and Kyaw Nyein - all of whom were staunchly anti-Communist and lead efforts to squash underground and above-ground communist movements. Even if senior military leaders such as Ne Win felt the need to strike a balance in its external relations by maintaining cordial ties with both eastern and western bloc countries and their militaries, the rank and file officers of the military have long been pro-US. 

According to a Voice of America interview in April 2011 with former General Tin Oo, defense minister under Ne Win in the mid-1970's and later co-founder of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, many officers were unhappy with Ne Win's decision to reject out of political concerns the US's offer of sophisticated fighter-bombers stored at US Air Force bases in Thailand for a mere US$1 million per plane after the US ended its military involvement in Vietnam. 

Forgotten legacy
In addition to this near complete break from its Japanese fascist roots, the military also moved away from the fragile legacy of its founder and national independence hero, Aung San. In particular, the military totally abandoned Aung San's commitment to keep the military under the control of civilian politicians and political revolutionary leadership. 

As evidenced by the re-naming of the national holiday "Resistance Day", in reference to resistance against Japan's fascist military occupation from 1942-45, to "Armed Forces Day", the military has over the past 50 years made concerted efforts to rewrite its own institutional history, as well as that of the country's nationalist movement. 

It continues to portray itself incorrectly as the sole vanguard of the country's liberation struggle against first British imperialism and later Japanese fascist military rule. The revolutionary leadership which led the well-timed armed resistance against Japan's military occupation in the hot season of 1945 arose from Burmese Communists such as Thakhin Soe and Thakhin Than Tun, as well as from the then head of the Burma Defense Army, Aung San. 

Aung San himself cut his political teeth as a Marxist-influenced student agitator at Rangoon University and was one of the five founding members of colonial Burma's first communist cell. Under these men's leadership, local resistance commands were formed along the communist resistance model, according to which military commanders were answerable to the political commissars attached to their commands. 

Shortly after the end of World War II, Lord Louis Mountbatten invited Aung San and a group of nationalist leaders including prominent communist leaders such as Than Tun and Thein Pe to Kandy, Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was previously known), where Mountbatten was headquartered as the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Southeast Asia. They met to discuss inter alia the future of the Japanese-trained army under Aung San's military leadership. 

As the British had restored colonial rule over Burma post-World War II, Aung San was presented with a choice between staying on as the uniformed head of the soon-to-be-downsized Burmese nationalist army, or relinquishing his military post and becoming a national, civilian politician. 

Under the British proposal, only a certain number of qualified Burmese officers would be given "direct commission" in a significantly downsized military, with their old ranks transferred automatically into the newly restructured military along the British model of a professional armed forces. 

Aung San's communist rivals pressured him to stay on as head of the new Burma Army so that political leadership of the post-World War II popular nationalist movement - and conceivably the power to shape the future course of post-colonial Burma - would no longer be in his hands. Against their advice, Aung San chose the civilian politician role, giving up official military titles and ties with the newly restructured Burma Army. 

Instead, he handed over command of the military to Colonel Letyar, his close comrade and long-time friend from his Rangoon University student agitator days. Following this arrangement, Aung San was no longer officially the "General", but the Burmese public continued to address and refer to him as "Bogyoke", or Commander in Chief, until his assassination on July 19, 1947. 

Despite the official uses of hagiographic tales of Aung San by his close personal aides and comrades-in-arms, there have been no known attempts to restore his legacy of keeping the military as a professional organization accountable to a civilian democratic leadership during the past half-century of authoritarian and unaccountable military rule. 

Aung San's British-involved assassination was tragic not only for the country's ethnic relations but also because early attempts by this remarkable nationalist revolutionary to professionalize the military in the soon-to-be independent British colony were buried with his remains in 1945. 

At the time, his daughter Suu Kyi was barely two years old. Relying on her secondary knowledge of her father's political legacy, including his short-lived and little known efforts to keep the military a professional force under civilian control, she is now advocating from her weak position in the political opposition for the reform of the military along more professional and honorable lines. It is a reform call that has fallen on deaf ears for the past 22 years since she first asked the question "Whose military is the Tatmadaw?", whereby she stated specifically that the army of her father should be the people's national army. 

The generals were not the only ones who felt the need to keep the military at a healthy distance from the country's necessarily messy democratic politics during the decade that immediately followed independence in 1948. Armed rebellions by both Burmese communist parties and non-Burmese ethno-nationalist organizations such as the Karen National Defense Organization inadvertently ensured that the military's political influence, including over civilian leadership selections, remained vital throughout the parliamentary period spanning January 1948 to March 1962. 

As the Cold War raged on, the intellectual and ideological climate in the US and Western Bloc was such that academics and policy-makers portrayed anti-communist soldiers in the newly independent countries of the "Third World" as "bureaucratic modernizers" and "efficient nation-builders" vis-a-vis "incompetent" "quarrelsome" and "argumentative" civilian politicians within their necessarily messy parliamentary and political contexts. 

In Burma, the West was known to be concerned about the ability of prime minister U Nu to keep the country safe from insurgent communists at a time when Washington's main preoccupation was to prevent communist "dominos" from tumbling across Southeast Asia. 

Thus when the Burmese military sought active US support for its institution-building efforts, including the training of military personnel in various areas including intelligence gathering operations, Washington was a willing partner. The US Central Intelligence Agency and other allied agencies in Taiwan and Israel helped to train officials in the dark arts of espionage and domestic surveillance. 

The US Pentagon, meanwhile, brought Burmese officers to US command and staff colleges for further training under the US International Military Exchange Program during the Cold War. During the administration of Jimmy Carter, arguably the most pro-human rights of all US presidents, Washington provided the Burmese military with civilian dual-use aircraft, including Bell helicopters, ostensibly to combat opium production. The craft were promptly refitted upon delivery with weapons systems that were duly used against communist and ethnic armed resistance groups. 

When Ne Win ended Burma's 12-year-old experiment in parliamentary democracy in a March 1962 coup, the event was not deemed headline news by the Western media. Four years later - after Ne Win locked up over 100 democrats, judges, journalists and other prominent Burmese deemed a threat to military rule, US president Lyndon Johnson hosted an official welcome dinner to the visiting Ne Win and Madam Ne Win at the White House. 

Towards the later phase of Ne Win's military rule, British banks, insurance companies and other commercial interests maintained their Burma-based businesses as usual. At Buckingham Palace, the Burmese general was even a welcome guest of Queen Elizabeth, who sipped tea with him and even thought the general to be a "nice chap", according to Derek Tonkin, former Burma desk officer at Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and retired British ambassador to Thailand. 

The West's pursuit of strategic symbiosis with Ne Win's coup-installed regime was then viewed as a useful bulwark against the spread of communism. But Western support abetted the militarization of Burmese society, a legacy of military rule that survived subsequent Western-led sanctions and will inevitably be strengthened by the West's latest round of unconditional diplomatic and strategic engagement initiatives.

A class above, the heaven-born

Military-controlled regimes in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, have gone through various incarnations since General Ne Win's initial military takeover of 1962. With a favorable ideological climate, intellectual and academic justification, political and diplomatic recognition, and strong Western material support, the stage was set for Ne Win's military, the Tatmadaw, to tread its chosen path without accountability - a course it has maintained to the present. 

With ties to and assistance from the US military and West Germany's state-owned arms manufacturer Fritz Werner, for decades the military has engaged in what might be termed "selective professionalization". The Tatmadaw upgraded its organizational and technical capacities, but when it came to professionalizing its relations with civilian institutions vital to forging a modern political state out of a myriad of multi-ethnic communities, it shunned democratic civilian leadership. 

Some 60 years ago generals, brigadiers, colonels, and commanding officers felt disdainful towards "inefficient" and "talkative" democratic politicians. During the country's parliamentary democracy period immediately following independence (1948-58), a young captain would typically assume "attention" position upon entering the office of a civilian township administrative officer. If a military officer violated the general civil law of the land, he would be liable for prosecution at a court of law in the politically independent judiciary. 

Today, Myanmar's military class feels that they are a cut above the rest of society, the Burmese equivalent of the "heaven-born". The military now plays judge, jury and prosecutor within the legal system which it doesn't observe itself. Constitutionally, the military is governed by its own set of laws, norms and regulations. These take precedent over any other legal frameworks and no military personnel, past and present, may be prosecuted for deeds which they have engaged in while discharging their duties. 

In short, civil laws do not apply to military personnel. For its part, the Burmese public has come to despise the once honorable military, both its leadership and institutional power base. The public knows that the military as an institution has become a class in and of itself. From their formative years as cadets in the country's defense academies, two successive generations of officer corps, numbering in the thousands, have been subject to an intense and sustained indoctrination process designed to make them think, feel and act as a distinct nationalist class. It thinks and acts as if it were the natural ruler of the people. 

The most important of all officers' training schools is the Defense Services Academy (DSA) at Pyin Oo Lwin (formerly May Myo, British colonial era summer station) whose alumni now occupy virtually all important positions in the military, including the most powerful Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as well as other civilian organs of the state, such as the cabinet and the various line ministries which it runs. 

Since the DSA's inception at the then newly built Bahtoo military town in Shan State in 1955, it has undergone significant changes, both quantitatively and qualitatively. It has been massively expanded in terms of the number of graduates it produces in a single batch. Its original motto for the officer-cadets was circumspect, professional and modest: "Future Victorious Warriors for the Country". Today the DSA instills in thousands of young cadets between the ages of 16 and 21 a new ethos, with a stated aim of training "The Future Ruling Elites of the Nation". 

In the early years, the academic curriculum was developed and managed by civilian academics in various arts and science fields, with the aim of instilling due respect for the civilian public, modesty, love of truth, fairness, honor, and national duty in graduating soldiers. The military curriculum was developed by Burmese graduates of Britain's Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and US staff and command colleges. 

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were no more than 50 officer cadets graduating annually from the DSA. Upon graduation they would be assigned to three different branches of the Armed Forces (Infantry, Navy and Air Force). Towards the end of the first military dictatorship of General Ne Win in 1988, about 120 officer cadets graduated in a single in-take. The military was 125,000-strong in 1988, while the country's population was estimated to be about 26 million. 

By 2011, its graduating class was somewhere between 2,000 - 3,000. In 2010, the country's military was estimated to be nearly half-a-million strong, making it Southeast Asia's largest military after Vietnam. The total population of the country doubled in the two decades since the collapse of Ne Win's rule in 1988 (and that of the Beijing-backed insurgent Burmese Communist Party a year later), while the country's armed forces grew 400%. 

In 2011, 24% of the country's national budget was reportedly earmarked for the military, compared with 4% for education and 1.3% for health services. In addition, bypassing its own military-controlled Parliament, the military leadership declared the establishment of the extra-legal, supra-Constitutional National Defense Fund (NDF). An unspecified amount of state funds is stored at the NDF, which authorizes the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as the only state official with access to its resources. It is effectively unanswerable to any organization or individual. 

Cost of the coffin
The Burmese problem is not simply the country's successive ruling cliques of generals aggrandizing themselves at the expense of the public. Those Burmese who grew up hearing the hope-filled speculation that things would get better once Ne Win's reign was over are no longer fooled by this once-the-old-guards-are-gone buzz. As the Burmese saying goes, "Once you have been dead you know the cost of the coffin." 

The old generation of nationalist soldiers, including Ne Win, left intact a process of distinct class formation with recognizably feudal features - minus the old cultural and customary constraints of the Indic moral guidelines for conduct of rulers. Nearly 70 years since its founding by Aung San, the Tatmadaw officer corps, and the soldiering class as a whole, have come to view themselves as a cut above the predominantly agrarian masses. This ruling military class has effectively set the political clock back to the country's feudal past. 

Naypyidaw has belatedly jumped on the global bandwagon of free marketization and privatization, though with distinct Burmese characteristics. Under the banner of privatization, public assets (land, forests, immovable infrastructure such as office buildings, power industries) are being divided among the families of senior and junior generals, as well as their cronies who, inter alia, serve as the generals' portfolio managers. 

With all these signs of bountiful state-sponsored cronyism, the country's soldiering class has taken an increasingly kleptocratic turn, a throw-back to the old feudal days in which the monarch and his men "ate" the kingdom in terms of land, labor, and natural resources. The Burmese have a wonderfully descriptive term for this type of phenomenon: "Hungry hounds stumbling on a pagoda feast." 

Ne Win and his men deliberately set in motion the revolutionary process of class formation, revolutionary in the sense that the military that was originally created by, of, and for the people no longer sees itself as part of the people. It is now a class of the "heaven-born", entitled to rule, not simply govern, the country in accord with the needs, concerns and interests of senior and junior generals. 

All these men began their military careers as cadets or other ranks pledging before every meal the mantra, "We pledge our allegiance to the country that feeds us." As a class, they have failed to uphold this cardinal pledge, acting instead with blind obedience to frequent and indiscriminate "shoot to kill" orders against various segments of society - monks or Muslims, Bama or Karen, farmers or laborers, young or old. 

The military has drifted away from a sense of gratitude to the country and honor to serve the people towards institutional/class allegiance and personal loyalty towards the chief. It is telling that when some ex-military officers who publish their biographies (ex-Brigadier General Tin Swe and ex-Lieutenant General Gen Tun Kyi, for instance) describe not the people but the armed forces as their "surrogate parents". 

This is a fundamental regression with dire national consequences, as the military as an institution and the soldiering class no longer serves or defends the people from any enemy, including unscrupulous military leaders. In the process, the Tatmadaw has established its own economic base and interests, fostered a distinct class consciousness informed by their own sense of superiority vis-a-vis the rest of society, and wrote its own radical revisionist history where the military is the sole national liberator and guardian of the nation. 

Military re-feudalization
Since 1988, a re-feudalization of the country's military class and political culture distinguishes the present phase of class formation from Ne Win's previous socialist revolutionary military rule. The process has paradoxically removed any cultural or traditional constraints on governmental conduct, including the once conditioned belief in honor as a warrior, as well as the Indic code and notions of the "righteous ruler", who is said to possess, among other things, compassion, wisdom, integrity, sacrifice, and fairness. 

It has led to the creation of a crony capitalist economy via a pool of its own economic agents, better known as "cronies"; class consolidation and reproduction through a combined policy of setting aside a high percentage of admission slots in military academies exclusively for the army-bred, and of careful screening of family backgrounds of officers and their spouses, especially for influential posts within the military; and, last but not least, the widespread practice of active participation of the wives of military officers in intra-military and political affairs, including the hiring and firing of deputies for their husbands and managing the flow of bribes and business deals.

Some of the more superficial acts of re-feudalization of the military and the state include former junta leader Senior General Than Shwe's and his family's well-known royal pretensions, whereby family members are known to address one another using the arcane language of the long-gone feudal courts and which today is spoken only in the Burmese theatre. 

Than Shwe built a brand new capital, Naypyidaw, and named it and all its residential quarters and streets auspicious-sounding old royal names selected from Buddhist Jartaka tales. At Naypyidaw, Than Shwe required comically obsequious gestures and demeanors from all subordinate members of the bureaucracy, military and society. For instance, subordinates, their spouses and families are required to get down on their knees, even in informal gatherings, and abide by the royal protocol of subordinates speaking only when spoken to in the presence of their military superiors. 

During the 2008 Cyclone Nargis disaster, victims were instructed by military officials to greet Than Shwe and other generals during their propaganda journeys to the storm-ravaged Irrawaddy Delta, as if they were Boddhiisattva, or would-be-Buddhas. Military-led re-feudalization has gone to comic extremes, as the scenes of Burmese citizens kowtowing to these military men of vainglory becomes more and more commonplace. 

To paraphrase the late Ernest Gellner, a Cambridge anthropologist and noted author of "Nationalism", in feudal societies it is power that generates wealth, not the other way round. Economically, Than Shwe whetted, and subsequently unleashed, the economic appetites of other senior and junior officers. 

As a point of departure from Ne Win's military regime, which pushed out a large number of alien commercial and technical elements from the economy (for instance, 300,000 Indians) with its catastrophic economic nationalization scheme, Than Shwe and his deputies have strategically chosen to build and expand the military's economic and commercial base. In so doing, they have resorted to nepotistic practices which involve patronizing only the army-bred, ex-military officers and business-minded civilians who have unquestioningly embraced the primacy of the military class. 

The best known case is Tay Za, Myanmar's wealthiest and most influential tycoon with close personal ties to Than Shwe's family, who also serves as the military's principal arms-dealer. A son of a former deputy of Brigadier Maung Maung, who was the chief architect of the military's institutional developments including the establishment of military and defense academies in the immediate post-independence years, Tay Za was himself a cadet at the DSA in the early 1980s. 

He was expelled from the academy for violating the then strict code of conduct for cadets. Aung Thet Mann and Toe Nay Mann, the two sons of Thura Shwe Mann, until recently the regime's third-ranking general and now Speaker of the military's newly established parliament, have also joined the country's top 10 most influential and richest "businessmen". 

The famous tycoon Zaygaba Khin Shwe, a close friend of former prime minister General Khin Nyunt, who headed the powerful military intelligence until his demise in a 2004 purge, also served with the Army Engineering Corps during Ne Win's rule. Khin Shwe is now a member of the military-controlled parliament representing the regime's Union Solidarity and Development Party, while his daughter is married to one of Shwe Mann's sons. 

President Thein Sein, for his part, is known to hold major shares in Skynet, the country’s most popular TV network. The company is fronted by ethnic Kokant businessman Shwe Than Lwin Kyaw Win, a nephew of the late drug lord Lo Sing Han. Than Shwe’s family owns Myawaddy TV, the sole TV network established exclusively for the armed forces personnel and their families. 

There are lesser known cronies who are army-bred and thus army-backed, (for instance, Hla Maung Shwe of the Myanmar Peace Center and Myanmar Egress, a local nongovernmental organization which the regime has used as its "civil society" proxy. It is, without a doubt that these men, and many others like them, owe their personal fortunes to military rule and the generals . 

Hijacked nation
In exchange for their entrepreneurial services to this growing military class, of which they have long been an integral part, the ruling junta has allowed the nouveau riche to exploit the country and its resources. Recently, Yuzana Htay Myint, another in-house businessman, has been permitted to take over 100,000 acres in the ancestral land of the Kachin minority in the northern most part of Myanmar. It was originally designated by the regime as a national wildlife sanctuary. 

In his otherwise insightful analysis titled "The Future of Tatmadaw's Political Role in Myanmar: Prospects and Problems," Maung Aung Myo, an army-bred former lecturer at Myanmar's National Defence College, observed that the Tatmadaw has been "hijacked by a small group of generals" for their own personal aggrandizement. Upon closer examination, it is really a case of intra-class symbiosis where juniors and seniors divide their ill-gotten gains at the expense of the citizenry. If anything has been hijacked, it is the country and its future that has been stolen away by its own soldiers. 

In feudal systems of the country's bygone eras, all the king's men served at the monarch's pleasure, and they rose and fell, lived and died, precariously. This scenario has been re-enacted in Than Shwe's Myanmar and in Ne Win's Burma, as the country was then known. Whimsically, these despots carried out large scale purges, for instance, the purge of military intelligence under the directorship of Brigadier Tin Oo in 1983 and the ousting of Khin Nyunt and the dissolution of the entire Directorate of the Defense Services Intelligence in 2004. 

Consequently, military officers, as well as other ranks, have opted to optimize their administrative and political authorities by translating them quickly into riches through bribery, big and small, while in office. To get rich quick was indeed glorious for Deng's China post-Chairman Mao Zedong. But in Than Shwe's Myanmar, "eating" as much of the country as fast as possible may not be glorious, not at least in the eyes of the traditional pious Buddhist population, but it has become the wisest and most strategic course of action for virtually all military officers who are clever enough to recognize that theirs is a class kleptocracy. Only the naive remain moral in this new thoroughly feudalized military class. 

Since the early 1990s, the Ministry of Defense has taken over state-owned enterprises and re-established them as "private" businesses owned solely by the Tatmadaw. The military now has its hand in virtually every economic pie, ranging from poultry farms, small factories, real estate, tourism, transportation, construction, rental of regimental facilities, shipping, power, banking, export and import, agriculture, energy and mining. Virtually no business entity of commercial significance can operate without being linked to the military, institutionally or to individual commanders, thereby bringing the entire economy under the Tatmadaw's effective control. 

Unlike Ne Win's socialist military government, the current regime does not alienate commercial elites. Instead, the generals have made local entrepreneurs work for military rule through an evolving economic and political symbiosis. In this new arrangement, which harks back to the old monarchical days of commercial and trade monopolies, the military has learned to patronize the economic class for its own benefit. 

Than Shwe has effectively leveraged the twin pervasive elements of greed and anxiety about the soldiering class's future, encompassing both the officer corps and emerging crony capitalists. Internationally, Than Shwe knows well how to dangle the possibility of economic liberalization before foreign investors and venture capitalists who view Myanmar primarily as "the world's last economic frontier". Western governments and corporations have tripped over themselves in recent bidding for telecommunications and other infrastructure and resource-related concessions. 

Only time will tell whether the forces of the free market will overpower Myanmar's ruling soldiering class. Unlike the military in Indonesia, the Philippines and Turkey, Myanmar's military is marching backward along feudal lines. The Tatmadaw is consolidating its class hold on society, economy and polity, while at the same time trumpeting "democracy and free market", which they know resonates well in Western ears. 

During the formative years of post-independence, the pro-capitalist West had looked at Myanmar's regressive evolution only through the self-serving lens of the Cold War and thus hailed soldiers as "modernizers". Western concerns then were the containment of anti-market Maoist and Soviet influences. Sixty three years later, post-Cold War Western governments and their affiliated interests are now bent on overlooking not only the military’s war crimes against ethnic minorities, but also the general's attempts to build a military apartheid, wherein the military and its commercial, technocratic and ethnic proxies rule over the bulk of the population as a class above, as the heaven-born. 

Maung Zarni ( is a Visiting Fellow at the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit at the London School of Economics. A former admit to Myanmar's Military Officers' Training Corp (1980), he hails from an extended military family. He has worked with three separate heads of the military's intelligence service from 2004-8 as an initiator of Track II negotiations.

Rohingya Exodus