January 27, 2016 8:20 pm JST
Maung Aung Myoe

A quick guide to Myanmar's military MPs

A Tatmadaw soldier patrols the area south of Muse in northern Shan State during the Kokang rebel insurgency in 2015. (Photo by Steve Tickner)

On Jan. 18, Myanmar's Union Election Commission announced the lists of military representatives nominated by the commander-in-chief to occupy 25% of the seats in both houses of parliament, known as the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or Union parliament.

     There are 56 representatives of the armed forces, or Tatmadaw -- 52 from the army and two each from the navy and the air force -- in the Amyotha Hluttaw, or upper house. By rank, they comprise one major general, six brigadier generals and four colonels. Two are from the Defence Service Academy, four from the Officers' Training School, and five from the Officer Training Course, otherwise known as Teza.

     All except one colonel have completed master's degrees at the National Defence College. There are only 12 new names on the list, meaning that just under 79% of military representatives in the Amyotha Hluttaw are being reappointed. Of the 44 officers reappointed to the upper house, 11 have been sitting in parliament since 2011. The mix of different military training backgrounds they represent could see a variety of views on policy issues, although it would not necessarily compromise the overall military position. Officers with OTS background have more experience in civilian life than their counterparts from other training schools, as they completed their university education before joining the service while the latter mostly started their military careers just after high school.

     The military delegation of 110 officers -- 91 from army, 8 from navy, and 11 from air force -- to the Pyithu Hluttaw, or lower house, includes two major generals, six brigadier generals and seven colonels. Seven of these 15 officers come from DSA, and the remaining eight are from OTC; none has a background in the OTS.

     Except for three colonels, all of these senior officers hold master's degrees in defense studies from the NDC. While three brigadier generals and three colonels are new to parliament, the remaining nine have been in the Pyithu Hluttaw since 2012. In other words, they are experienced in the legislative procedure. Only 46 names are new; 58.18% of the officers named are already serving in the chamber. Of these 64 officers, 10 have been in the chamber since Jan. 20, 2011.

     All the officers who will sit in the new parliament hold at least one university degree. Many studied engineering and science, and some hold master's degrees or doctorates. The two women officers who will sit in the lower house are medical doctors.

     Overall, the military has assembled a formidable pool of educated and experienced legislators to perform what it believes is an important role in national politics. The graduate education of senior officers at the NDC is important because officers study not only national security and international affairs but also public administration and economic development, giving them a broad overview and understanding of public policy issues. This educational background will undoubtedly help them set benchmarks against which to address policy issues as it equips them with both skill and knowledge in public affairs.

Maung Aung Myoe, an author and expert on Myanmar military issues, is professor of international relations at International University of Japan. 

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