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Conclusion 193 7 Conclusion Building the Tatmadaw since 1948 has been a challenge. It has gone through various phases of development. In July 1947, Bogyoke Aung San, father of the present day Tatmadaw, expressed his view on the future of Myanmar’s national defence and the armed forces in the following terms: Look at the national defence, our military is just enough for suppression of internal unrest. For national defence [against external threat], it is not sufficient. Army [infantry] is not enough. There are no armour[ed] battalions. [The] Navy is just for show. In reality, there is no way to defend this country. [The] Air force is just in the formative stage. In [the] air force, for this country, there should be at least 500 combat aircrafts [sic] for [the] first line of defence. That is not sufficient. While these 500 aircrafts [sic] are in frontline combat action, each aircraft should have three or four aircrafts [sic] in [the] rear for [sic] reserve. At least another 500 combat aircrafts [sic] is [sic] needed. Overall, this country needs at least one million soldiers at the time war begins. It is better to have an army of [a] million soldiers. Right now, we have just 20,000 soldiers.1 Over a period of nearly six decades, the small and lightly equipped Tatmadaw has grown in size, force structure, and technological sophistication. Largely as a result of recent force modernization and expansion, the Tatmadaw has transformed itself from essentially a counter-insurgency force into a force supported by tanks and artillery, capable of fighting a regular conventional war. It has now become Southeast Asia’s second largest military force, next to Vietnam’s. One of the declared missions of the Tatmadaw is to build a “strong, highly capable and modern armed forces”, which, 193 07 Bldg Tatmadaw.indd 193 12/29/08 8:56:14 AM 194 Building the Tatmadaw according to the rhetoric, “keeps up the twelve noble traditions of the Tatmadaw”.2 According to official statements, in building a strong, highly capable, and modern Tatmadaw, three capabilities — military, organization, and administrative, have to be achieved through four means — training, administration, welfare, and morale. While training is a key to enhance all capabilities, there are other factors that play an important role in building the Tatmadaw, especially in the field of military capability: military doctrine and strategy, force structure, armament and force modernization, and military training and officer education. In the process of formulating its military doctrine and strategy, the Tatmadaw has undergone three phases in line with the changing threat perception. The first phase of the doctrine was to cope with external threats from more powerful enemies with a strategy of strategic denial under conventional warfare. The perception of threat to state security was more of external rather than internal threats. The internal threat to state security was managed through the use of a mixture of force and political persuasion. However, this did not resolve the internal threat to state security. The second phase of the doctrine was to suppress insurgency with the “people’s war”, and the perception of threat to state security was more of internal threats. During this stage, external linkage to internal problems, and direct external threats were minimized by a foreign policy of isolation. The third phase was to face lower-level external threats with a strategy of strategic denial under the “total people’s defence”. The SLORC/SPDC has successfully dealt with seventeen major insurgent groups, whose “return to the legal fold” in the past eighteen years has remarkably decreased internal threats to state security, at least for the short and medium terms. Moreover, there are some indications that some of the ceasefire troops will eventually become paramilitary or special police reserve in support of the Tatmadaw.3 However, the threat perception of the possibility of external linkage to internal problems, perceived as being based on pretexts such as human rights violations and ethnic cleansing, remains high. Myanmar’s national objective, as declared by the SPDC, is to create a modern, peaceful, and prosperous nation in which 135 national races live in harmony. The role of the Tatmadaw, which must be a “strong, highly capable and modern” force, in this process has been prominent as political and social cleavages have been difficult to reconcile and have often resulted in violence. Since the day of independence, the Tatmadaw has been involved in restoring and maintaining internal security and suppressing insurgency. It was with this background...


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MARC Record
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