‘The Tatmadaw Loves Democracy’

Myanmar, Burma, Myint Soe, military, Tatmadaw, ceasefire, ethnic groups

Lt-Gen Myint Soe attended peace talks between the government and ethnic armed groups in Myitkyina last week. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

With the conclusion of another round of peace talks between the central government and ethnic armed groups last week, the stage is set for a meeting next month in Burma’s Karen State. Both sides have agreed to work toward a nationwide ceasefire agreement at that gathering in Pa-an, having exchanged draft proposals of such an accord in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, which hosted the latest round of talks from Nov. 4-5.

Critical to any ceasefire accord will be the ethnic armed groups and Burma’s most powerful institution—the military, also known as the Tatmadaw.

The Irrawaddy sat down with Lt-Gen Myint Soe, a commander overseeing the government army’s Kachin State operations, to discuss Naypyidaw’s draft ceasefire proposal and broader prospects for achieving peace with Burma’s numerous ethnic groups.

Question: Under a section titled ‘Duty for Country’ in the government-drafted ceasefire proposal, references are often made to protection, security and defense of the country. As it relates to the Tatmadaw, what is meant by this?

Answer: It is very simple. The meaning of ‘defense of the country’ is to defend all of us from enemies from other countries. This is duty for country. Today, the Tatmadaw defends the whole country. To envision a Tatmadaw made up of Shan or Kachin factions is untenable, because the Tatmadaw represents all of the country. The Tatmadaw defends our sovereignty; it is used for the defense of the country. This is not only the case in our country; it is the system in other countries as well.

Q: The draft ceasefire says ethnic minority groups and the government are to cooperate on matters relating to rule of law and governance. Does this mean ethnic armed groups will be allowed to govern in the ethnic areas?

A: There are many general issues at the state level to be worked out. For example, the immigration issue, and tax policy. They [ethnic armed groups] will not be allowed to interfere in some of these matters.

Q: Do you think ethnic armed groups will agree to submit information on the size of their armies and the military hardware they possess to a monitoring group? Some people say this could be a sticking point to any peace agreement.

A: This is done not only in this country. Look at Nepal and Sri Lanka; they have used a similar system. We did not create this system on our own. We have to use this system because they [ethnic armed groups] did not turn in their guns despite signing ceasefires. This system will work if we do it properly.

Q: There will be only one army under this draft ceasefire. Does this mean ethnic armed groups will be forced to disband?

A: We will grant them territorial claims in some areas. Their ethnic armies will continue to exist until they set up their own political parties. We will not tell them to disarm, but we will try to build trust with them first, and they will disarm once they have trust in us.

Q: But ethnic armed leaders are saying Burma’s defense must be entrusted to a federal army.

A: TheArmy is not an institution whose structure can be reformed within a day. There cannot be ethnically determined Kachin or Karen factions within a Union Army. There should be one army.

Q: So how will you respond when they push for a federal army in Pa-an?

A: They have not said anything about this yet to us. Only you, The Irrawaddy, is worried about this and saying this. They are aware of our proposal to set up a Union Army. The world uses this system—having only one army.

If there is something to discuss, it will be discussed at the meeting. They cannot cause the Army to collapse or become divided. U Nai Hang Tha [secretary of the United Nationalities Federal Council], U Gun Maw [of the Kachin Independence Army], and U Mutu Say Poe [of the Karen National Liberation Army] are aware of this. Only people who are not in the know are saying this. They do not understand the system. Under a federal system, we will have power sharing and natural resource sharing.

Q: Since Gen Aung San’s assassination and the disunity that followed, Burma’s people have looked to many ethnic armed groups as their protectors. So under this draft ceasefire, as the saying goes, ‘Gen Aung San, who is our father now?’

A: [laughs] If you think like this, you are wrong. Our current army is it is Union Army. They protect the whole country.

Q: The same Army that has a record of torture, rape and other human rights abuses, especially in ethnic minority areas?

A: We cannot say everyone in the Army is good. There are bad soldiers in the Army. This is why we have laws, to punish them. We do not accept rights abuses perpetrated by any Army officer. There are soldiers and commanders who we have punished. They cannot just do as they please.

Q: Who wrote this draft ceasefire proposal?

A: The Army and government, including the president, drafted it. The president was the main person involved in this.

Q: Is the Tatmadaw biased against Burma’s ethnic minorities?

A: This is not true. We accept all peoples. Please do not talk about the past. We are campaigning for national unity. There is no discrimination based on religion or ethnicity.

Q: Will the Tatmadaw accept a democratic system in Burma?

A: Let me ask you: What does democracy mean? Democracy comes from the people. The people wrote the 2008 Constitution. The Tatmadaw loves democracy. There is democracy system within the Army. You would be wrong to say that the Tatmadaw does not love democracy.

Q: And if thepeople want to reform the Constitution and remove the privileged place that the military enjoys in it?

A: Who are they? There are 60 million people in our country. Ninety-two percent supported this Constitution. If they want to reform it, they have the right to do so.


14 Responses to ‘The Tatmadaw Loves Democracy’

  1. From the questions and answers, it is clear the military continues to hold their view that the current constitution was “democratically written and approved” It never was. It has always been clear, known and also accepted both by the people of Myanmar and internationally it was the military junta which drafted the so called constitution, held the so called referendum in which the people were forced to approve under duress in 2008 and conducted a sham election in 2010. The Lt General continue to play the same old record, the same old set piece given to him by his bosses, the military junta. The Tatmadaw continues with their “Maha Bamar Buddhist chauvinism”; and this is clear in the Lt General’s answers. I doubt whether he knows and understands what he is talking about. I begin with hope and now, I question and seriously doubt the sincerity of the military in these “peace negotiations”.

  2. I accept all questions and answers by General except last answer.The referendum was done when people suffering Cyclone “Nagris” time,more than 90% doesn’t like the present constitution, it was done during Dictator Regime. Amendment or New constitution to be approved by the people of Myanmar not parliament members.Most of the members are Military backed Party and fraud election in 2010.My comments is betterment of Myanmar future.
    “Must be Union Army” for all races in Myanmar not ethnics armies.All races should be in the Union Army.

  3. “The Tatmadaw loves democracy”, if a child receives one cent in a pigggy bank every time the Great General says the truth, how many cents will it have at the end of the interview? Will it be anough to pay for his education, his health, his parents’ life, his daily food and shelter?

    It should be, because this is the purpose of the Tamadaw: to protect the life and well being of the citizens.

    From this we can judge the short comings or otherwise of the Myanmar Tat-ma-daw. “By their deeds will they be known.” Words alone are just air.

  4. George Than Setkyar Heine

    “We will grant them territorial claims in some areas. Their ethnic armies will continue to exist until they set up their own political parties. We will not tell them to disarm, but we will try to build trust with them first, and they will disarm once they have trust in us”.
    Hence, Myint Soe is a LOSER since this day I say.
    The BURMA ARMY is RESPONSIBLE for the PROTECTION of the PEOPLE of the COUNTRY, UPHOLD the SOVEREIGNTY and DEFEND the TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY as well. Right?
    Hence, IT DOES NOT NEED to BABY SIT any armed group in the country for that matter as well obviously of course.
    However, SINCERITY and HONESTY WILL GO A LONG WAY in this matter lest you forget as well.
    “Let me ask you: What does democracy mean? Democracy comes from the people. The people wrote the 2008 Constitution. The Tatmadaw loves democracy. There is democracy system within the Army. You would be wrong to say that the Tatmadaw does not love democracy”.
    That is OUTRIGHT LYING man!
    Of course the PEOPLE DIDN’T WRITE the NARGIS CONSTITUTION in the first place I say.
    Hence, DEMOCRACY DOES NOT COME FROM the PEOPLE man!
    Than Shwe led military junta (SPDC) WROTE the 2008 CONSTITUTION, don’t argue man!
    If the BURMA ARMY LOVE DEMOCRACY then Myint Soe and ALL UNIFORM WEARING PERSONNEL should just STAY OUT of the POLITICS – parliament – of BURMA not to mention MONOPOLIZING the ECONOMY (UMEHL) of the country most importantly.
    Since day one the BURMA ARMY has been DOING POLITICS and MONOPOLIZING BURMA’S ECONOMY until today, don’t argue if you know the facts and are sincere Myint Soe.
    And DEPOLITICIZING the MILITARY, LEAVING the ECONOMY/POLITICS in the HANDS of the PEOPLE and RETURNING TO THE BARRACKS is the ONLY REMEDY/SOLUTION to CURE ALL ILLS IN BURMA lest Myint Soe and his boss Min Aung Hlaing (Than Shwe and others) as well forget.
    Continued STRADDLING the PEOPLE with the MILITARY YOKE (CONSTITUTION) and HOLDING MONOPOLY (UMEHL) on the ECONOMY and POLITICS (parliament) of the country as well on the part of Myint Soe and his gang running the Naypyidaw today WILL HOLD NO WATER in EARNING the TRUST of the ETHNIC ARMED GROUPS/PEOPLE much less ADD CREDENCE to Myint Soe saying “The Tatmadaw Loves Democracy” as well.
    Most importantly as well Than Shwe’s chosen or rather Chinese’ Min Aung Hlaing led Burma Army should REDEEM ITS RIGHTFUL/RESPECTABLE PLACE in the HISTORY of BURMA SIMPLY BY RETURNING to the BARRACKS and LEAVE the JOB of RUNNING BURMA in the HANDS of Suu Kyi and her people for the BETTER in case Myint Soe’s Tatmadaw REALLY LOVES DEMOCRACY/BURMA I say!
    And by the way HOODWINKING and PLAYING POLITICS WILL NOT MAKE ANY HEADWAY in MAKING BURMA DEMOCRATIC much less RESTORE FREEDOM and PEACE in the country not to mention EARN the TRUST of the ethnic armed groups and the people of Burma as well idiot.
    Hey, BURMA’S OVERALL PICTURE (politics, economic, social etc.) WILL REMAIN BLEAK and UGLY AS LONG AS Myint Soe and his men in green (BURMA ARMY) ARE STILL PLAYING their UNWARRANTED much less UNWANTED ROLES in the country and SCRIPTED to the LETTER as well with a view to CONTINUE their GRIP on POWER, PROSPERITY and for POSTERITY on the long run as well evidenced today, trust me.
    And the PEOPLE of BURMA much less the ethnic ARMED GROUPS/PEOPLE WILL NOT BUY THAT CRAP (Tatmadaw loves democracy) as LONG AS the BURMA ARMY is in the PICTURE and specifically Myint Soe is HEADING the OUTFIT WREAKING HAVOC in Kachin State today as well I say.

    That will HIGH LIGHT the POINT and EARN the TRUST of the PEOPLE specifically the ethnic ARMED GROUPS as well of course.

    “Let me ask you: What does democracy mean? Democracy comes from the people. The people wrote the 2008 Constitution. The Tatmadaw loves democracy. There is democracy system within the Army. You would be wrong to say that the Tatmadaw does not love democracy “.

  5. This clown does not know what he is talking about. He blurb out many wrong facts. The first wrong fact is that he is claiming all of the countries around the world is run by single army or defence force is wrong. For example, in US there is military, NSA, CIA, FBI, State Guard and National Reserve Army, all of those arm forces branches are not just under military command, yet all of them serve for the same goal and common cause. How about British military in colonial time? There are Indian troops, Gharkis Troops, even Burmese troop serve for British troops before independence. I think Myint Soe confuse between command and troops within the country. Second wrong fact is that, in Burma military is the only group who is protecting Burma from external threat according to him. I like to make some common sense question to him. Before Burma gain independence, who are the one take lead for Burma independence? Is it ordinary citizen or Military personal? Bo Aung Kyaw, who is a student leader at colonial time and U Ottama, a monk from Arakan state and Aung San himself was just ordinary citizen when the started to demand independence to restore the honour of our nation. Arm forces around the world are just to serve the will of their citizens, after all soldiers are sons and daughters of Citizens, soldiers are not the rulers of the citizens. Is it true in Burma? Myint Soe said military love Democracy, is it because military got special chances by 2008 constitution? You can not define Democracy your own way and Democracy definitely is not only election deep!!!!!

  6. I totally lost in translation on his anwers.

  7. Zomi for the Federalization and Democratization of Burma

    ======
    Lieutenant General Soe Myint:
    “Let me ask you: What does democracy mean? Democracy comes from the people. The people wrote the 2008 Constitution. The Tatmadaw loves democracy. There is democracy system within the Army. You would be wrong to say that the Tatmadaw does not love democracy.”
    ======
    ======
    “The people wrote the 2008 Constitution.”

    Really? The military wrote the 2008 Constitution. You can read about it in the newspapers published in 2007 and 2008.
    ======
    “The Tatmadaw loves democracy.”

    If the Tatmadaw loves democracy, why did the Tatmadaw arrest, torture, and murder democracy activists? Why did the Tatmadaw detain Aung San Suu Kyi for 15 years without being put on trial?
    ======
    “There is democracy system within the Army.”

    I don’t think so. Even in democratic countries, democracy is not practised in the military.
    ======

  8. Maung Lu Aye ( Law ) R.A.S.U 1976

    Dear Lt-Gen Myint Soe, I have No Personal about this Comment. Actually, Instead of Saying Tatmadaw/ The Army love Democracy, Why not Act Good Deed to the People ( Action Speaks Louder than Words ). Mostly & Naturally ,The High Army Officials are ” The Same Beans from the Same Bin ( De Poke Hter Ka De Pear ).
    I know very well, you are representing The Army or Thein Sein’s Govt, Not your Own Belief. Let me Ask , the Army or The Govt is trying very Hard CeaseFire with Kachin, Karen and Palaung ,etc . Are you Sincere about that ?
    Why , the Ethnic Refugees are Still fleeing their Homeland/Birthplaces to the Safe Areas and become IDP/Internal Displaced Persons ? And Some Few are Granted to the 3rd Countries,although they dearly love their BirthPlaces.
    If The Army or The Govt is Sincere/Honest there are No Refugees going- on for Decades.
    Please do not say Only Nice to the Media , but you should Act accordingly.

  9. The idiot myint soe answer that ” Let me ask you: What does democracy mean? Democracy comes from the people. The people wrote the 2008 Constitution. The Tatmadaw loves democracy. There is democracy system within the Army. You would be wrong to say that the Tatmadaw does not love democracy.”
    Myint soe is so low in education and has no human mind so myint so said he did not need to care about when Burmese people were killed in the nargic cyclone at the time of his rubbish 2008 constitution, manipulated by his fox than shwe. So myint is so dump to show to the world that 2008 is his god and his fair constitution for all. After panglong agreement, he and his fox than shwe use nargic 2008 to cheat all ethnics again and again. Myint soe, lion face-opportunistic and selfish rubbish unethical low born thinks people around the world are naive. Fox and lion are cruel as well as selfish liar.

  10. Lt. General is quite a high-ranking officer in the army.
    If such a high-ranking official is that ignorant, and say idiotic “wisdom” about democracy, federal system of government and an attitude towards ethnic brethren, how would that be with the other high officers, and lower down. And yet, they think they can rule, nay lead, the country.
    I am rather puzzled about how well educated these people are!!!

  11. Q: Do you think ethnic armed groups will agree to submit information on the size of their armies and the military hardware they possess to a monitoring group? Some people say this could be a sticking point to any peace agreement.

    A: This is done not only in this country. Look at Nepal and Sri Lanka; they have used a similar system. We did not create this system on our own. We have to use this system because they [ethnic armed groups] did not turn in their guns despite signing ceasefires. This system will work if we do it properly.

    Nepal and Sri Lanka??? What a wonderful idea to follow the footsteps of Nepal and Sri Lanka!!! Good luck with that one.

  12. The only thing this military protects is it’s own interests.

  13. Why did the Tatmadaw NOT hand over Government to those who legitimately won the majority of democratic votes in the year 2,000?

  14. The Tatmadaw is full of doublespeak. Trust nothing they say or promise.

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