Min Aung Hlaing or Myanmar’s Most Unfortunate Dictator?

by mohingamatters

For the past 60 years, the anger that Myanmar’s 60 million population feels about military dictators only turned into cursed words. The curse of the people of Myanmar was more personal toward General Ne Win when he staged a coup in 1962 by using the power of the army that was built by General Aung San. People back then might have thought that the army as an institution was used by the junta and the main actor behind the coup was Ne Win himself, and the Burma Socialist Programme Party that dragged Myanmar into the darkness. So, all the curses upon the army institute were somehow overlooked. Throughout Myanmar’s history, there have been many clashes between the military and its citizens. The moment when the people of Myanmar finally realized that the military would never stand up on the people’s side was the 8888 Uprising. The bloodthirsty army showed its true form to the world by killing hundreds of protesters, proving that it was more than obedient servants of the tyrant and that every single soldier was a willing perpetrator. Though the successive military leaders tried to govern the country in a closed system, the memories of the 8888 Uprising remind the public about the true nature of the army and its generals. Even after that, people in central regions and ethnic areas have held different views on the army which is predominantly made up of Bamar people.

During the time of quasi-democratic governments, the brutal army showed its fangs by committing violent acts on the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State. However, several Myanmar citizens, who were kept in the dark by the military leaders, supported the army’s atrocities openly. Little did they know they would face the same fate shortly. When the time came, the wildfire of violence burned in every corner of the country. Following the coup on February 1, cold-blooded soldiers began killing the opposers of the military regime by shooting in the heads. People witnessed the army that vowed to protect them turn its back against them. They saw security forces smashing the car windshields for no reason, destroying the public’s property rampantly, and looting the people’s belongings as if they were a group of thugs. They heard how the soldiers shouted “Come out if you dare to die” to unarmed civilians on the streets.

Thanks to information technology, civilians are now able to observe the atrocities committed by the military in split seconds. This is the major difference between the previous coups (in 1962 and 1988) and 2021. In the previous coups, people were kept in the dark while this time around, people benefited from the booming global network connections. As a result, the view that the public has on the military has changed. Citizens have now seen the true form of the army and immediately realized that there is no safety guaranteed under the military regime. Just like the previous generations who cursed at then-military, similar words reached the lips of the younger generation. They cursed Min Aung Hlaing and his army to meet the worst fate possible in a human life. While his predecessor managed to dodge the consequences of such profanity, the curses of the generations of Myanmar people seem to be coming true onto Min Aung Hlaing. 

“The army has failed”

In this anti-regime revolution, every protester chanted “The army has failed” in unison. They wished to see the Myanmar military collapse. Since Min Aung Hlaing is backed by this institution, people assume that the collapse of the Myanmar army means the end of Min Aung Hlaing too. However, it is widely believed that the collapse of the Myanmar military is not going to happen soon. When the National Unity Government (NUG) declared war against the military regime, both local and international observers and analysts speculated that it was a long shot to defeat the military.

When Min Aung Hlaing was appointed as the commander-in-chief of the military that ranked 38 in the world, he was extremely proud, and he announced that he would transform the military into a “standard army”. During General Than Shwe’s time, only infantry columns marched and saluted him in Armed Forces’ Day military parades. When Min Aung Hlaing took the chief position, he stood before parades of infantry troops, armored vehicles, tanks with multi-launching rocket systems, and high-tech anti-air defense columns to simply show off the strength of his army. All-black tactical-suited commandos performed fast-rope from hovering helicopters and saluted Min Aung Hlaing. He ensured that the Armed Forces’ Day parade made headlines in newspapers every March 27. In addition, he instructed the military to conduct army, navy, and airforce joint military training sessions and invited both local and international media outlets to cover the training. He usually puts so much effort into convincing the world that the army he leads is powerful.

Soon after the coup, the military dressed its troops in new camouflage uniforms and sent them to major cities with armored vehicles. They shot and killed peaceful protesters, and that was when the Myanmar public decided to respond with armed resistance which no one had anticipated. Since then, the public has defended themselves by picking up arms.

Strength on paper

The international community regards the Myanmar army as the most combat-experienced institution with mighty infantry troops on the ground in all of Southeast Asia. Myanmar is the only country where internal conflict remained after World War II, and also has a large number of ethnic armed groups in the country. While other Southeast Asian countries sought development by promoting the economy in the second half of the 20th century, Myanmar people lived in a barbarian way by fighting each other under military rule. When there were active wars, there was a military budget, and every corrupt general took advantage of it. While successive military dictators claimed to have built the strongest army in Southeast Asia, it was mostly on paper. Most of the defense budget ended up in the pockets of army officers of all levels. The military has one famous slogan “We will always remain united no matter who divides us”. In reality, there is no one dividing the military except its greedy and corrupt leaders. The Myanmar military may rank 38 globally, but eventually, it is falling apart due to corruption and bribery. Commanders from infantry battalions, regional operation bases, troop commands, and regional commands are required to recruit their squads whom they can trust. This further resulted in division and friction among lower rank officers and troops.

How the Myanmar military survived in a country that was under the threat of several ethnic armed groups is always questionable. The only strategy that the military uses is to oppress one ethnic group while making a temporary truce with others. While the military focuses all of its efforts on one specific group, it keeps other groups happy by giving them business opportunities or self-administrative rules only until they are done cracking down on one group that had been singled out. Some even said that Min Aung Hlaing caught General Than Shwe’s attention by using this strategy when the Myanmar army clashed in Kokang region the first time. He was praised by the former dictator and appointed as the army chief when Than Shwe retired. Since then, Min Aung Hlaing must have felt invincible and so full of himself that he staged the coup, hoping people would simply submit to him.

The major miscalculation was that he thought the people’s resistance against the coup was temporary. From peaceful protests to the systematic formation of armed resistance groups, the people have shown that the anti-regime movement was certainly not temporary. With multiple warfronts opened by different groups, Min Aung Hlaing could no longer use his favorite strategy and eventually had to disperse his troops all over the country. The regime’s troops have not been rested since the coup in February 2021. Some have been sent to the frontline and have not been back to their original military bases for three years now. In this situation, the military has limited manpower to use excessive force against a targeted group. The end of the military regime can be achieved by coordinated warfronts against the regime which prevents the military from focusing on one armed group. This instance was witnessed during Operation 1027. While the Three Brotherhood engaged in northern Shan State, other armed actors across the country also clashed with the military in their respective areas. Eventually, brigadier generals from Laukkai regional operation command surrendered which was a disgrace for the so-called standard army. The regime’s troops have also reportedly defected and fled to neighboring countries such as China, India, Thailand, and Bangladesh. After having seen these defeats, one might wonder if the fall of the Myanmar military might take place under the reign of Min Aung Hlaing.

Inadequate high-tech weaponry

For many years, more than half of the national budget has been allocated to military spending by the military-led governments, supposedly to protect against foreign invasion, to preserve the race and religion, and to carry out the duty of the country.

Modern fighter jets were bought from foreign countries using taxpayers’ money. Second-hand military equipment was bought from Russia and China. Arms brokers and relevant generals became rich and prospered in the process. Meanwhile, troops on the ground are not even dressed properly. When Min Aung Hlaing took the chief position, he equipped the Myanmar air force with European helicopters, fighter jets, latest model gun-ship (attack helicopter) from Russia in his attempt to build the so-called standard army. He even showed off locally made warships. But by 2024, the resistance forces gunned down a few fighter jets and up to three warships.

The military has terrorized the ethnic armed groups by using aerial attacks. But now, the military including Air Force with fighter jet pilots who carried out airstrikes has suffered the curses of the people. Justice is slowly taking place, it seems.

Along with the Independence emerged several ethnic armed groups in Myanmar and resisted the military for decades. The main weakness of these armed actors is the inability to counter the aerial attacks, and the lack of air force. However, this time around, young fighters have built and used drones to infiltrate the regime’s bases and carry out attacks. While the regime’s infantry troops are busy requesting air support from the Air Force with bureaucratic steps, the youths have carried out multiple drone attacks. This is simply a karmic reaction for the military after having killed innocent civilians using air strikes for generations.

Myanmar’s most unfortunate dictator

When the military accused the 2020 General Election of fraud and started pointing out the “correct” voters’ list, the public joked, “Myanmar army knows everything except how to fight”. The growing anti-regime resistance forces and severe defeats that the regime faces have proved that the military may probably not know how to fight tactically. Imagine a scenario where this poorly equipped, undisciplined, and corrupted army fights to protect the people of Myanmar from a foreign invasion. Unimaginable! For all those reasons and the inevitable outcome that the military would fail sooner rather than later, Min Aung Hlaing would rank in first place among the most unfortunate dictators in the world. His seniors, namely, Ne Win, Than Shwe, Maung Aye, and Khin Nyunt, used to be the most hated men in Myanmar to whom people cursed but they seemed to have dodged the consequences. Now, it appears that Min Aung Hlaing will single-handedly have to take in the impact of these generational curses of Myanmar people since 1962.

You may also like


@2024 – Developed by Mohinga Matters

Mohinga Matters
Mohinga over everything
Update Required Flash plugin