Billion-dollar Military Budget Irks MPS

Burmese armed forces soldiers on parade. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Burmese armed forces soldiers on parade. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Burmese opposition lawmakers have expressed dissatisfaction with a proposed budget that will give the country’s armed forces more than US $1 billion in funding in the coming fiscal year, and have criticized the lack of transparency in military spending.

Earlier this week, a draft budget was submitted to Parliament that will again make the military by far the largest recipient of public funds, granting it more than one-fifth of the total budget—slightly lower than the amount it was awarded last year.

Some MPs said that defense spending—long the top priority of the successive military regimes that ruled Burma for five decades—continues to impose an enormous burden on the country, preventing it from tackling other issues such as poverty.

“They say they want 1.067 trillion kyat [$1.15 billion] for the armed forces. That’s a huge amount, especially compared to what’s being spent on health care and education. And nobody knows how they [the armed forces] are spending that money,” said Upper House MP Pe Than, from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party.

“If this continues, our people and our country will never escape from poverty. They need to stop spending so much on the military,” he added.

According to Pe Than, the proposed budget allocates just 4.4 percent of government funds to education and 3.9 percent to health care. The junta that handed over power to the current quasi-civilian government in 2011 spent significantly less than this on public welfare, while routinely awarding itself 40 to 60 percent of the national budget.

Lower House MP Daw Dwebu, from the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State, said she called on the Defense Ministry to provide details of how it plans to use the money it says it needs. “They say they want to have a modern Tatmadaw [armed forces], but they should say what they mean by this.”

Nai Banyar Aung Moe, a Lower House MP from the All Mon Regions Democracy Party, said that the demand for excessive defense spending shows that Burma is still far from free of the legacy of half a century of military rule.

“The army was in total control for a long time, and it may take many more years before we can end its influence in politics,” he said. “In the meantime, the military still wants to dominate.”

If the army needs more money, he said, it should use it to support rank-and-file soldiers and their families, so they will be able to improve their livelihoods without exploiting civilians, especially in ethnic areas.

One Upper House MP who asked not to be identified also expressed dissatisfaction with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence on the issue of military spending.

Suu Kyi, who is the daughter of Gen Aung San, the founder of Burma’s armed forces, recently said that she is still “fond” of the country’s military, despite its often brutal mistreatment of ethnic minorities and suppression of democratic forces.

Under Burma’s military-drafted 2008 Constitution, armed forces appointees occupy 25 percent of seats in Parliament.

7 Responses to Billion-dollar Military Budget Irks MPS

  1. What do you expect from DASSK? She was a freedom fighter and leader of the people but now she is merely a politician who is on the same boat with the generals. No wonder she has been silent on ethnic issues, political prisoners and of course fond of military generals!

  2. Burma continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift. The military leaders of Burma are self interested fools who deserve to be overthrown, not appeased.

  3. So, what has changed? Nothing! Have you ever seen a dog lower down the ‘pecking order’ going against the ‘alpha’ dogs? I guess not. The President has shares in MEHL and would you expect to ‘blow away’ his ‘pension’? When you have a Parliament and the government democratic in name only – 25 percent of seats reserved for the military – what different outcomes do you expect. They are the ‘Sopranos’ of Burma. An ‘organised crime syndicate’ which is above the law (if there is such a thing as ‘law’ in Burma, that is). With a bit of cosmetic changes (if you could call that ‘change’ or ‘reforms’) just as it was outlined in the military’s ‘Master Plan’ businesses are rushing in whether there is improvement in human rights situation or not. Before the military was allowed to ‘exploit’ the people by force or coercion and now because of some openness that option could not be possible without ‘scrutiny’ Above all, when someone is reluctant to ‘call a spade, a spade’ or a ‘thief’, a thief just because of some ‘tenacious family ties’ to those ‘criminals’ real or imagine, then consider yourself lucky that they don’t take the budget 100 percent. If farmers who grew rice have to live on one meal a day then people who did not grow anything may have to ‘sleep on their stomachs’ to withstand the agonizing prangs of hunger.

  4. Before discussing the military budget cut, the MPs need to discuss to cut the numbers of soldiers. Burma does not need hundreds of thousands of useless soldiers. Instead we better have a bout a hundred thousand educated and quality soldiers. As long as Burma has four hundred thousand soldiers, cutting budget will be like sending soldiers to forced labor camp in the hands of Than Shwe. Cut the numbers in the military service first then cut the budget.

  5. The ‘Invest in Myanmar ‘ advertisement sharing a page with this article says it all really.

  6. Suu Kyi is becoming insane lately. Unless Burmese military is reinvented to fit in the today’s world, any man or woman who is fond with this military is just an insane one. Suu Kyi may try to persuade and win the hearts of the soldiers, she is not doing rightly. The military wing of the Burmese government is the most hateful part to all of us, I mean to all of us.

  7. Billion-dollar Military Budget Irks MPS…please don’t it is because of them that you can sleep with both eyes shut…can’t have it both ways.

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