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Inside the military killing machine

Thet Aung/AFP/Getty Images

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.

Sadly, the Tatmadaw is equipped to quash such defiance. For anyone married, “their wives, their children” could be arrested or tortured if they ever tried to leave.

Listen to the podcast here.