Pro-Military Rally in Capital Organized by Central War Veterans Group: Ex-Soldier

By Htet Naing Zaw 23 January 2019

NAYPYITAW—A pro-military rally held in Naypyitaw on Wednesday was organized by the Myanmar War Veterans Organization (Central), a former Army captain told The Irrawaddy.

U Yan Myo Win, who is also chairman of the Zabuthiri Township branch of the Myanmar War Veterans Organization, said: “No [pro-military rallies] had been held in Naypyitaw, though they had been held elsewhere across the country. So, one was organized in Naypyitaw at the instruction of the Myanmar War Veterans Organization (Central).”

As U Yan Myo Win was telling The Irrawaddy this, however, another veteran interrupted him and told him not to provide this information. U Yan Myo Win then changed his answer and said the rally was organized by a Naypyitaw-based war veterans group.

The Myanmar War Veterans Organization consists of former soldiers from the rank of private to major-general. Its current patron is Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) commander-in-chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing. His predecessor as patron was former Senior-General Than Shwe.

Around 500 war veterans from the Naypyitaw Union Territory took part in the rally at the old long-distance bus terminal in Pyinmana Township.

“We are here to support the role of the Tatmadaw. We have gathered as an auxiliary force of the Tatmadaw,” said U Yan Myo Win.

Pyinmana Township War Veterans Organization chairman U Than Aung told the media his members proposed organizing a rally in Naypyitaw as similar rallies have been held in other parts of the country.

“They asked why we hadn’t organized [a rally] while other places already had. So, at the request of the rank and file of the war veterans organizations, we have organized [the rally] according to their wishes,” he said.

The Tatmadaw has come under mounting international pressure in the wake of operations in northern Rakhine State—triggered by militant attacks on security posts—that have driven some 700,000 people, mostly Rohingya, to neighboring Bangladesh.

In September, the UN Human Rights Council voted to set up a body to prepare evidence for possible future prosecutions at the International Criminal Court relating to the military’s treatment of the Rohingya.

Since then, Army sympathizers—including ultranationalists, war veterans and their families—have organized rallies across the country to express support for the military’s actions in Rakhine State.

“The country can only survive if the Tatmadaw exists,” former Lance Corporal U Kyaw Win told reporters.

At a conference of the Myanmar War Veterans Organization in Naypyitaw in November last year, Sen-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing publicly praised pro-military rallies.

He told the audience that “nationalistic and patriotic people in various townships have organized rallies to show their opposition to one-sided allegations and interference by some foreign countries and organizations in the internal affairs of our country, and to show support for the actions of the Tatmadaw.”

He added, “Such good traditions should be maintained.”

Over 80 pro-military rallies have been held since 2016, according to the Myawady Daily, a military mouthpiece.

Lower House lawmaker U Aung Win said pro-military rallies are unnecessary because Myanmar already supports the Army. He said the Tatmadaw should focus on its duties providing defense for the state, and not get involved in politics.

“[In the past] there were never pro-military rallies. When the Tatmadaw said the country will be strong only when the Tatmadaw is strong, it was the country’s only institution. But we also have [an elected] government now. But the [previous] government supported and prioritized the Tatmadaw,” said the lawmaker, who is a retired Army captain.