Interview: ‘The Military Coup Was Not Supposed to Happen’

2021-04-28
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Interview: ‘The Military Coup Was Not Supposed to Happen’ A Myanmar soldier removes a protest sign denouncing the military coup from an armored vehicle outside the Central Bank of Myanmar in Yangon, Feb. 15, 2021.
AFP

A small number of Myanmar military officers have made a risky decision to quit the armed forces and join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) of striking workers who abruptly left their jobs to protest against the coup that seized power from the elected government on Feb. 1, citing voting fraud in the November 2020 elections. Three military officers who recently left their posts at a defense equipment factory became the latest servicemen to join the CDM. One of the officers, a graduate of the Defense Services Technological Academy, fled to the Indian border after going AWOL. He spoke to reporter Soe San Aung of RFA’s Myanmar Service about his views on the protests and his military experience. The officer asked that his name, rank, and personal information not be disclosed so as to ensure the safety of the two other officers and their families. The following Q&A has been edited for clarity.

RFA: Why did you defect?

Military officer: The main reason I defected is because the military is supposed to protect the country and the people. This is the reason the military exists. Now, the Burmese military is arresting, torturing, and killing the people for no reason. I defected because I dislike their actions.

RFA: So far, more than 700 people have been killed by security forces amid crackdowns. As a military officer, how do you view these killings?

Military officer: The military coup was not supposed to happen. As for the people of Myanmar, we only want democracy. They have taken power and gone backwards. The duty of the military is to protect the country and the people and to be loyal to the ruling government. They should not be examining the voter lists [from the November 2020 elections]. The military coup was not reasonable because there is no solid evidence of voting fraud or voter list errors.

RFA: Now that you are in India, what are you planning to do next?

Military officer: I’m looking forward to seeing a federal army established by the National Unity Government [Myanmar’s parallel government]. I want to serve in the federal army if they want to use my expertise. I want to serve the federal army and the people.

RFA: How could you help the federal army?

Military officer: I’m from one of the factories under the military’s Defense Products Industries, known as Ka Pa Sa. I’m moderately skillful at defense technologies.

RFA: How many officers from Ka Pa Sa are now involved in the CDM?

Military officer: There are only three officers from the Ka Pa Sa, including myself, who are participating in the CDM.

RFA: From which countries does the military purchase raw materials for manufacturing its weapons?

Military officer: The raw materials for our factories mostly come from China, but these materials do not enter Myanmar through border trading routes such as [the northern Shan state border trading town] Muse. They come by shipment via Singapore. In the Chaw Dwin Gone neighborhood of Yangon, there are storage units called Ka Hta Pa. They house all the containers with the raw materials for the weapons factories, and they distribute them to the factories. Most of the raw materials come from Norinco, [a Chinese state-owned defense corporation that manufactures civil and military products]. There are 38 Ka Pa Sa factories [in Myanmar]. The German company Fritz Werner supplied the equipment for manufacturing bullets. As far as I know, there are no more sales of new equipment from that company, but it is still supplying spare parts.

RFA: What kinds of weapons are being used against anti-junta protestors during crackdowns?

Military officer: In February, when the protests were the heaviest, I saw [security forces] using rubber bullets and smoke bombs. After they shut down the internet, they used more violent means. They no longer use rubber bullets and smoke bombs. They have been using assault rifles like the MA-1, MA-3 and BA-63, which can kill a person instantly when they are hit.

RFA: In some areas, local people say that security forces have used rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) against protesters. Do you know if this is true?

Military officer: I cannot confirm this since I haven’t seen any photos, but I’ve seen troops carrying RPGs, so it’s possible they have used them. They wouldn’t have carried RPGs with them if they hadn’t planned on using them.

RFA: As a young person and a graduate of the Defense Services Technological Academy, what advice can you give to young people who are leading the Spring Revolution, the local name for the protests, and the CDM?

Military officer: In my opinion, the military leaders cannot turn back at this juncture. The military cannot give up now. If they did, the leaders would have to face the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice, and they would be sent to the gallows to be hanged. They will continue the violence. They will keep firing guns and terrorizing the people. The people also know it. I see the people are very determined to keep fighting and win since they lost in 1988 [during protests and a general strike in the 8888 Revolution]. This time they don’t want to lose again.

Reported by Soe San Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Sevice. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung and Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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