Striking Myanmar military officers have urged the public to welcome and protect military personnel who join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) as well as their families.
Taking part in an online discussion organized by the civil society organization Thanakha Global Alliance on Friday, striking military officers said at least 800 military personnel ranging in rank from private to major and aged between 20 and 35 have joined the CDM.
Daw Miemie Winn Byrd, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel, Naw May Oo, a tactical adviser to Karen State-based ethnic armed group the Karen National Union, and former Myanmar military captains Nyi Thuta and Lin Htet Aung took part in the discussion.
Nyi Thuta accused the military leadership of sowing discord between the people and rank-and-file members of the military. He asked members of the public not to hate all military personnel, but to focus on fighting the dictatorship.
Of the Myanmar military’s some 400,000 troops, only around 20 percent are committing violence against the people, the former captain claimed.
Full-scale fighting between the entire military and the people as a whole would end up in massive bloodshed, he said.
“Under this system, the rank-and-file members of the military and their families are suffering as much as the people. We will be able to achieve victory with minimal losses if military personnel side with the people. So, the channels should be kept open to allow military personnel to join hands with the public,” he said.
Calls to shun military personnel and their families have been growing as part of a social punishment movement against the regime, which has killed more than 800 people since February.
Nyi Thuta said rank-and-file members of the military and their families are subject to oppression by the higher-ups and their families, and the majority do not have the option of walking away from their higher-ranking bullies.
His fellow former captain Lin Htet Aung said many military personnel oppose the coup, but dare not speak out because doing so risks not only their lives but also the lives of their families.
“They could be imprisoned for long terms if they publicly oppose the coup. Their lives would be at risk. Some officials who implied they stood by the people have been detained,” he said.
The CDM was made possible by the support of the people, and many more military personnel are expected to leave their barracks if people continue to support those wishing to join the CDM, he said.
Daw Miemie Winn Byrd, who served in the US Army for 28 years, said the sole duty of the armed forces is to protect the people.
“Their duty is to protect the people. They should not engage in irrelevant areas. The military is trained to fight a war, and thus must not do business and engage in politics. If they do, things will end up in chaos,” she said.
A professional army is not built on military training alone, but also on the educational levels of its members, said the retired US Army officer.
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