Myanmar’s military is a “robotic rank of warriors who are bred to kill”, says Hannah Beech in this podcast for The Daily. The reason they’re so heartless is that they’re raised in a “privileged” parallel society. The Tatmadaw, half a million people who make up Myanmar’s soldier class, have their own banks, hospitals, schools, internet and television shows: by design, there’s no interaction with the man on the street. The children of military officers intermarry. Unmarried soldiers even draw lots to marry the widow of a comrade who dies in battle.
The Tatmadaw is cloistered from mainstream society because the state’s biggest enemies – ethnic armed groups, communist guerrilla groups, student activists – have always come from within. From the moment they enter boot camp, troops are taught that they are the guardians of a country and a religion, Buddhism, “that will crumble without them”. They will fight to the death to protect it. But some rebel. Take Captain Tun Myat Aung, who was practically raised by the army – his mother died when he was 10 and his father was an alcoholic. Because he speaks English, he has had access to a digital world outside the military. He defected when he realised that he’s not so different from anyone else.