On 20 April, Dr Maung Zarni joined the 2-hour expert-discussion on Myanmar’s troubling situation since the February 1, 2021 coup against the democratically elected government of National League for Democracy.

Better known as a human rights activist, Maung Zarni’s research has focused on his country’s military affairs over the last 30 years. His presentation at the Democracy Forum – broadcast live on YouTube – focused on the institutional history with Fascist DNA and its short-lived attempts at professionalisation of the military by the martyred founder General Aung San and his successor General Smith Dunn, an ethnic Karen trained at the British Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, Surrey. He pointed out that the institutional character of the Tatmadaw as government military, and the mindset of the officer corp were single-handedly moulded by the late general Ne Win, the dictator who was trained in Tokyo’s Kempeitai Training Academy, which was dismantled in 1945, following Japan’s unconditional surrender. Ne Win led the Tatmadaw from February 1949 till his official resignation as head of state of Burma in July 1988. Of the Fascist military units of WWII Japan’s imperial military, the Kempeitai were a cross between Nazi SS and Gestapo, and were principally responsible for the Rape of Nanking, “Comfort Corps” (where thousands of Korean women were organized as sexual slaves for Japanese troops across Asia) and other mass-atrocities such as forced labour throughout the Fascist-occupied Southeast Asia.

Maung Zarni highlighted the 4-deeply disturbing features of the Tatmadaw:

      • neo-Feudalist practices of regional commanders treating their regions as “fiefdoms”, with blanket impunity;
      • neo-Fascist ideological orientation, that is, extreme racist, ethno-nationalism;
      • well-organised Mafioso with a web of familial ties between top generals and Chinese cronies who manage the generals’ vast ill-gotten gains
      • across Southeast Asia and Asia’s money-laundering bank systems in China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand; and
      • the neo-colonial modus operandi in the regions of national minorities such as Kachin, Karen, Shan, Chin, Mon, Kayah, and so forth.
  • Zarni argues that contrary to the state-centred view of western journalists and Burma experts, which has for decades promoted that empirically false view of the Tatmadaw as “the glue” that keeps the country’s myriad and restive ethnic groups together, the Tatmadaw has been the single most divisive and destablising institution in diverse ethnic nations who formed a voluntary Union of Burma in the last days of the British rule post-WWII.The FORSEA co-founder offered two pieces of evidence – namely, first, a radical shift in popular consciousness that now views the national armed forces like a Fascist occupier with terroristic behaviour towards virtually all communities throughout the country and second, the emergence of a recognizably inclusive, tolerant society at large, across ethnic, racial, religious and class lines. He pointed out that the public now embrace Rohingya genocide victims as part of the country, and have publicly issued apologies to Rohingyas and other national minorities who have borned the brunt of the Tatmadaw’s systematic and sustained repression over the last 70-years.He finally contended that the reconciliation between this terroristic Tatmadaw and the society at large is inconceivable. The multi-ethnic society has ostracized anything Tatmadaw and is demanding the establishment of the multi-ethnic Federal Army befitting a Federal Democratic system.

    The Full Programme:

    ‘Myanmar coup: A blow to democracy’

    Broadcast:  Tuesday April 20, 2021 2-4pm UK time (6.30-8.30pm India time)

    Chair: Humphrey Hawksley, Author & former BBC Asia correspondent


    • Dr Monalisa Adhikari, Lecturer in International Relations, School of Social, Political and Global Studies, Keele University
    • Dr Maung Zarni, Fellow of (Genocide) Documentation Center, Cambodia, & co-founder of the Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia (FORSEA.co)
    • Baroness Mary Goudie, Officer/Member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy in Burma
    • Dr David Brenner, Lecturer in Global Insecurities, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex
    • Thin Lei Win, Myanmar Journalist

    Closing remarks: Barry Gardiner MP, Chair of TDF.


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