Singing Soldiers Burnish Myanmar Military’s Image on Global Stage

By The Irrawaddy 20 August 2019

YANGON—From the front line to the assembly line, the Myanmar military is internationally renowned both for its heavy-handed approach on the battlefield, and its ability to make money by establishing conglomerates operating businesses from banks to breweries.

However, on Saturday, the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) surprised the audience at the closing ceremony of the International Army Games in Moscow by displaying an entirely different set of skills. Demonstrating its mastery of traditional Myanmar instruments, songs and dance, the Tatmadaw showed that it’s not all about guns and business, and that in fact it has a creative side as well. The Myanmar military’s cultural troupe earned awards for best singing, dancing and musical performance at the games.

A total of 39 countries including Russia, Myanmar, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan participated in the Army Games 2019, which comprised 32 field capacity events. It was the second time Myanmar has joined the international event.

This year, the Tatmadaw took part in the tank skill, sniper shooting skill and field medical skill events. Additionally, the cultural troupe competed in the games’ Creative Competition, according to Myanmar military chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing’s website. The senior general personally attended the closing event.

Myawaddy, the military-run TV broadcaster, said, “Out of the nine contestants, the Myanmar Tatmadaw’s cultural troupe won the best singing, dancing and music playing awards.”

For all its outstanding artistic skill, however, the Myanmar Tatmadaw delegation’s performance in military-related contests was far less noteworthy.

Myanmar’s tank crew finished in 13th position out of 32 competitors, while the medical team was fifth among 12 teams and the sniper team ended up in 15th place among 23 teams from 21 countries.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s web page praised the Myanmar Army delegation for the relentless diligence and perseverance with which it competed.

“They achieved good positions in the order of contending countries, gaining competitive experience against international military organizations and technological experience, as well as friendly relations,” it says.

The Tatmadaw team will participate in future editions of the International Army Games in the coming years, it added.

Closer to home, the Myanmar Army is currently battling ethnic rebels in the northeast and west of the country.

Late last week, the Defense Services Technology Academy, a military training school in the garrison town of Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Region, was rocketed for the first time in decades in a rebel alliance attack that killed one civilian and wounded one soldier.

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