Critic: Unseasonal award dole out suggest low morale

Well known military analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw said yesterday the recent out of season decorations by Naypyitaw indicate a rock bottom morale among the Burmese military.

“Normally, decorations are given on 4 January (Independence Day) and 27 March (Armed Forces Day),” the Sino-Burmese border based analyst said. “But during the offensive against Laiza (the Kachin rebel capital on the border), government forces had suffered extremely heavy casualties and it has seriously affected the army’s morale.”

Aung Kyaw Zaw (Photo: SHAN)

The awards were announced on 8 February: Thura medals for 3 and Outstanding Soldier medals for more than 1,500 including 3 lieutenant generals, one of whom is Hla Htay Win, who was also transferred from the armed forces chief of staff to become minister of border affairs, replacing Lt-Gen Thein Htay.

Warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu (also written Sun Zi), who wrote The Art of War more than two thousand years ago, said:

  • When they give out numerous rewards, it means they are at an impasse;
  • When they give out numerous punishments, it means they are worn out.(Chapter 9, Thomas Cleary translation)

The Myanmar Army was reported to have incurred some 5,000 killed, wounded and missing during the fight. Many officers who had tendered resignations had also been sentenced from 15-25 years in prison.

The morale was also damaged by conflicting orders coming out from Naypyitaw, according to him. While the President was ordering a ceasefire, the army was ordering units in the field to push on. “What it implies is that the military is above the law and above the legislature and the government.

“Thus, the question arises: how far we have made headway with the reforms. The answer is: if you look forward, you’ll find you are still here. And if you look back, you are still here.”

For the country to move forward, a change of the military’s mindset is in order. “If we can’t change it, we’ll find ourselves moving 10 steps backward while moving 10 steps forward,” he concluded.

The Kachin offensive that began in June 2011 ended as January 2013 drew to a close.


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