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Role of officers in Burmese Army (Part 1)

Written by Bo Htet Min

Saturday, 23 January 2010 19:22 -

Mizzima News - Commissioned officers in Tatmadaw (Armed Forces) are enjoying more rights
and benefits than other ranks and they are also enjoying the highest decision making power in
administrative, executive and the judiciary. I present the nature of relations between these
commissioned officers and other ranks in this article.

Generally it takes one year for 2 nd Lt. to be promoted to Lt. and takes 3 years to be promoted
from Lt. to Capt. From 2 nd Lt. to Capt. positions are

designated in Tatmadaw as junior officers. The Maj. and officiating Maj. ranks with the current
Capt. rank with the position of officiating company commander is designated as mid-level
officer. Lt. Col. and above ranks are designated as senior officers in Tatmadaw.

Officiating posts are like the probationary period enjoying pay for one-step higher post one year
in advance but are not entitled to wear the insignia of this rank. Only after getting the
satisfactory endorsement given by the higher officer, the officiating officer is allowed to wear his
insignia. So there are officiating major (officiating company commander) and officiating Lt. Col.
(officiating battalion commander) posts in Tatmadaw. Similarly there is officiating Col. (officiating
tactical and strategic command commander) post in Tatmadaw too. In the senior officers’ posts
above Light Infantry Division (LID) commander posts, the word ‘officiating’ is omitted in
addressing them though they have not yet really reached these posts. They are called simply as
LIC Commander and Regional Command Commander.

Junior officers such as platoon commanders and company commanders with the rank of 2 nd Lt.
to Capt. treat each other like siblings in a family by using the term ‘younger brother’, ‘elder
brother’ among others. The 2

-in-command (2IC) of a battalion must be addressed as ‘Ah Ba Lay’ (Little uncle) and the
officers above the level of Regional Command Commanders must be addressed as ‘Ah Ba Gyi’
(Big Uncle). The military dictators brought this word ‘Ah Ba’ which was never used before in the

The newly appointed 2 nd Lt. who graduate from the officers’ academy are frequently filled with
anxiety and fright worrying about their insignia falling off from their shoulders. If these new
officers bully subordinates including the platoon Sgt. and misuse their authority, the
subordinates will whisper in discontent “Let’s see his combat skill in the battlefield”.

Then the senior platoon Sgt. and Lance Cpl. test these newly appointed officers in the frontline.
Let me first explain ‘point’ operation in frontline duty, clearing the way for the main force. These
senior non-commissioned officers stay in the back unnoticeably and then these newly appointed
2 nd Lt. will face difficulty in handling this basic ‘point’ manoeuvre. They have to try hard to
integrate the theory that they learnt in their academy and the ground reality in frontline without
the cooperation of these veteran non-commissioned officers.

When these new officers encounter enemy fire, most of these inexperienced young officers are
scared, shocked and don’t know how to react while dipping their head to the ground. Then his
subordinates will lose their respect in their commander and start defying their orders with

Role of officers in Burmese Army (Part 1)

Written by Bo Htet Min

Saturday, 23 January 2010 19:22 -

contempt. If these new junior commanders respond to the ground reality of the battlefield calmly
and bravely, they can easily win the respect and affection of their subordinates.

The main point is dealing with their subordinates by these young commanders. If they behave
like non-commissioned officers in dealing with the soldiers by using harsh words, the relations
between them will be certainly strained. They cannot win respect, trust and affection until they
can prove to the low ranking soldiers their bravery, determination, selflessness and generosity.

The worst thing in the army is unnecessary intervention and poking of noses by these young
officers in the work of their subordinate non-commissioned officers such as preparing the duty
roster for day-to-day duty such as railroad lookout duty, road security duty among others.
Sometimes they even exploit the ration in both ration money and meat ration of their
subordinate soldiers. They sometimes order these soldiers to do their personal work.
Sometimes they order these soldiers to do non-combat fatigue duty endlessly without giving
them enough rest. They even control and restrict their rightful out-pass right. By these high
handed dealings with these soldiers, the young commanders face growing tension with them in
the army.

Due to understaffing in army units, these inexperienced young officers have to take control as
company commander with Lt. rank. In this situation, they will face more hardships in the
battlefield. Some recent graduates from the academy created unnecessary problems while they
were having meals together with their platoon Sgt. when his batman shows respect not to him
but to the older and more experienced Sgt. in Burmese tradition. Sometimes these trivial
matters grow into big problems in army units.