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Why the Tatmadaw is resisting real reform

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Editorial by Nai Kasauh Mon

Incidents over the last two months painfully demonstrate the Tatmadaw (Burma army) still behaving the same as during the previous successive military dictatorships; a time that brought the country to a state of ruin. Not only do they still actively confiscate land from civilians, but soldiers have allegedly committed, or tried to rape, several Mon women.

During the first case, a young woman from Kyun Kanye village in Ye Township was reportedly raped by a military officer. Last month, another soldier allegedly tried to rape another woman in Thanbyuzayat
Township, but didn’t succeed after the 43- year old mother of six from Waekali village fought him off, sustaining serious injuries from her would be rapist.

Human right violations like these follow an identical pattern as during the country’s dark past; a time when the military enjoyed full impunity to do as it wished. Justice is yet to be served for these numerous past abuses.

These recent examples show despite military leaders’ claims of reforms being introduced, they are still unwilling to change, thinking these reforms do not apply to them.

In the past, the Tatmadaw completely ran the show, wielding their military power like brutes, and apparently they want this to continue. The sad reality is that since they seized power in 1962 until 2010, they destroyed the nation making it one of the world’s most impoverished countries.

From 1988 to 2010, the Tatmadaw sold off many of the natural resources, mainly to China. The earnings were shifted from one general to the next. This rampant corruption created desperation, causing enormous suffering for the country’s citizens.

During the 1988 uprising, the Tatmadaw once again firmly seized control for more than 20 years. They imprisoned many politicians and activists, leaving the majority hopeless and desperately poor.

President Thein Sein’s claims the government has reformed Burma. But for real reform to take root, it really depends on how much compromise the Tatmadaw is willing to make. Recent actions by the military offer little hope.

The 2008 constitution was drafted in such a way ensuring that the Tatmadaw’s power remains entrenched. It was instituted by retired Senior General Than Shwe, intentionally written to allow military leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing to share power with Parliament. If he has no desire to amend the constitution within the current system, it will be impossible to change within the current legal framework.

The Tatmadaw fears amending the 2008 constitution will lead to own demise by abolishing their leading role in the running of the country. Also, they don’t want to lose the vast wealth they and their families have accumulated from land grabs and exploitation of natural resources. Not to mention facing the tune for decade’s long crimes committed against their own citizens.

Despite their unwillingness to amend the constitution allowing them to keep a firm grip on the country’s affairs, the peoples’ desires for justice and democracy will eventually succumb.

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