Defectors reveal Myanmar military junta’s grip on soldiers’ lives, minds and finances | DW News

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DW News published this video item, entitled “Defectors reveal Myanmar military junta’s grip on soldiers’ lives, minds and finances | DW News” – below is their description.

The Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s powerful army, controls every aspect of its soldiers’ lives. Those who leave pay a heavy price. DW spoke to three defectors. The three men describe a cloistered, strictly controlled life, based on a stringent, overarching hierarchy. Soldiers, they say, are required to live on army bases and are only allowed to leave if granted permission by superiors. The army dictates what soldiers and their families “wear, say and believe in, even how to decorate your home,” one man said. “They can check your house at any moment,” he added. Low-ranking soldiers, one defector says, were treated “like slaves,” with their wives forced to clean high-ranking officers’ homes without pay. Another said he had witnessed a superior asking the wife of a low-ranking soldier to give him a massage. He says the woman acquiesced, knowing that refusing could have negative repercussions for her husband.

The Tatmadaw’s outsized role is intertwined within Myanmar’s political and economic life — a lucrative advantage that succeeded colonial rule.

Following independence from Britain in 1948, a military junta took control in 1962, ushering in a prolonged period of iron-fisted rule characterized by strict censorship, imprisonment of opponents and international isolation.

While in power, the army — as well as individual officers and their families — amassed great wealth. This included land, economic and financial assets.

The generals only eased their grip on power in 2010, which culminated in elections that allowed for Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party to form a government. Even after ceding some control to elected politicians, it continues to play a vast role in both the political and economic field: The constitution guarantees the military 25% of parliament seats, meaning that the army can block any constitutional amendments it dislikes.

It also retains control of important ministries, including defense and home affairs.

All three men are aware of the Tatmadaw’s reach, as the army pursues defectors. One man says he had heard from a contact in the Tatmadaw’s headquarters that it had compiled a list of some 300 defectors and was going after them and their families. It was, he says, “a manhunt.”

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