Myanmar Military Commanders Pocketing Dead Soldiers’ Insurance: Sources

By The Irrawaddy 16 May 2023

Myanmar military commanders are diverting insurance payments for slain soldiers into their own pockets, according to sources close to military families, and junta soldiers who have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM).

Early this year, the regime halted insurance payouts for families of 66th Light Infantry Division (LID) soldiers killed in Kayah (Karenni) State whose bodies could not be recovered. They are listed as missing in action rather than dead, a source close to families of the 66th LID told The Irrawaddy.

“They are not listed as dead because [the Myanmar military] does not want to give insurance payouts,” he said.

The 66th LID is based in Inma town on the Yangon-Pyay Road some 20 miles to the south of Pyay in Bago Region, and overseen by the Southern Command.

Soldiers who have recently deserted say the bereaved families are not receiving the money owed to them for two reasons. Firstly, corrupt officers are pocketing the payments, and secondly the regime wants to impose news blackouts on the heavy military casualties it is suffering.

The payments were made for regime soldiers who died in clashes with the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State between late 2018 and November 2020 even when their bodies could not be retrieved, said Hein Zaw Oo, a 19-year-old private who defected from the army in April.

“But lately, [the military] has not been sending death benefits and bank savings for soldiers whose bodies cannot be retrieved,” he said.

Hein Zaw Oo last served in Light Infantry Battalion 2 based in Kyaikto, Mon State. The battalion is under the command of 44th LID and is fighting the Karen National Union and People’s Defense Force in Karen State.

It is mandatory for junta soldiers to buy life insurance. Privates are required to buy a minimum two-year policy worth 500,000 kyats (US$ 238 at the official exchange rate) and pay a monthly premium of around 8,400 kyats.

Also compulsory for military personnel is saving money at the military-owned Myawaddy Bank, and buying shares in the military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd.

Defector Ye Htet Kyaw, who served as a private in Light Infantry Battalion 341 based in Karen State’s Papun, said battalion commanders would siphon off the money when the dead soldiers had no relatives, or their relatives could not be contacted.

“My superior died after stepping on a land mine while carrying food supplies. He had around two million kyats in his bank account. The battalion commander took the money after his death and said it was deposited in battalion funds. I don’t buy it.”

An estimated 14,890 junta soldiers were killed, and nearly 5,000 wounded in the 12 months after armed revolution began on June 1, 2021, following the military coup in February that year.

CDM captain Htet Myat said: “Most military family members do not know how much military personnel have paid for insurance premiums. Only the soldiers themselves know. And insurance certificates are usually kept at battalion offices. And some family members don’t know about the insurance, in which case they do not get death benefits.”

As family members do not know the insurance amount paid, battalion commanders never give death benefits in full, said defector Ye Htet Kyaw.

“If there is three million kyats in the bank, family members only receive 1.5 million kyats” he said.

Former captain Htet Myat said officers have been siphoning off life insurance payouts since before the coup, listing soldiers killed at front line as missing in action. But the exploitation has worsened since the coup, he added.

Previously, Myanmar military personnel had been required to buy life insurance at state-owned company Myanma Insurance. But since 2015, four years after Min Aung Hlaing became the military chief, military personnel have been required to take out insurance with Aung Myint Moh Min Insurance Co, which is owned by Min Aung Hlaing’s son, Aung Pyae Sone.