“The military does not value soldiers. When a soldier died in the battle, the gun was taken, not the dead boy. Every soldier knows it.”

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The 129th Light Infantry Battalion under the Region Operations Command in Yankhunt village of Sheshan area under Kokang Special Region 1 in northern Shan state surrendered to the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) on 12 November.

Led by Commander Major Kyaw Ye Aung, 126 soldiers and 134 family members decided not to fight the battle.

It is the first time for the entire battalion to surrender in the history of the Myanmar military.

This interview with former sergeant of air force Zeya who has joined the civil disobedience movement is about the surrender of the entire battalion, impacts on the military and possible trend of Myanmar military.

TLT: Is it the first time for the entire battalion to surrender in the history of the Myanmar military? Why did they decide to do it?

Sergeant Zeya: It was the first time in the history of the Myanmar military. Just after the independence, some battalions made armed struggles and defected. However, they surrendered to the enemy. This battalion has over 12 soldiers and their dependent women soldiers who also received the arms and ammunition. However, they will die if they fight back.

They would receive aerial reinforcement, but it was not sure while the military has many battlefields across the country. So, the causality will be high. There are many controversial views in the military. But some soldiers cannot leave the organization as they have pledged loyalty to the organization and they worry about difficult livelihoods.

They have failed in their aspiration. Their leaders focus on their interests. This major is the commander of the battalion, and that he decided to surrender in consideration about the lives of his soldiers.

TLT: How much impact will the situation in the army have on the issue of the entire battalion surrendering?

Sergeant Zeya: Surrendering of the entire battalion has a lot of repercussions on the military. This troop is a light infantry battalion. They are at the frontline. The surrender of this battalion has demoralized their peers.  

Although the generals did not confess, they had a very big problem. They no longer trust their soldiers. They understand that if soldiers do not follow their orders, they will not be able to develop any military strategy.

 It is a very big problem for them. Those who surrender calmly are treated according to international norms, as well as allow them to go with family and relatives. This strategy is very good. And that, the remaining soldiers are expected to surrender.

When they hear this news, they will prepare something like this. We know there are many officers who understand their juniors. So, this happening will have a big impact on the military.

TLT : According to the Military Act, even abandoning a bunker on the front line of the battlefield will face the death penalty. Could you make any comment on the motto of the military ‘“Until we stay alive, we will not let our camp to lose’?

 Sergeant Zeya: According to the Military Act 59, desertion of the camp at the frontline can be sentenced to death or shot dead on the spot, while abandoning the military base under normal situation will face up to 3 years of sentence.

It is not easy for soldiers to surrender or difficult to organize for surrender.  “The military does not value soldiers. When a soldier died in the battle, the gun was taken, not the dead boy. Every soldier knows it.

 All military leaders are running rampant in business and seeking self-interest. Soldiers hardly disclose it, but everyone knows. 

TLT: What do you think about the current military surrender and possible scenarios?  

Sergeant Zeya: It is not only in the North Shan State that surrenders. Since the first attack in Northern Shan, 50 of them surrendered without a fight. In Rakhine, surrender happened like this. They surrendered easily. The same situation in Karen too. More surrender will definitely happen, if we provide a chance.

They will run through the safe route. Otherwise, if the captives were killed in revenge, they will not surrender. If we treat them well, and if they were allowed for their destination, they will not surrender.   

 TLT :  Can we say that the military has disintegrated, or what will be the future of this organization?

 Sergeant Zeya: The military is not well organized anymore. They have disintegrated.  The junta leaders have been defrauding the national revenue since before. The military generals use the defense budget for the reason to buy items, for their own benefit.  The Myanmar ruling military has been destroyed by corruption for positions, and their accomplices, since the previous time. Recruiting is also like mercenary soldiers.

Soldiers abandoned their army. But, they were re-accepted. This has been happening for a long time. Their morals are also completely destroyed, hooping only for the benefit of the ruling class.   They make the wrong propaganda as the military is the strongest organization. Even before the revolution, the army was in ruins.

The military has been systematically disorganized. It cannot be noticed easily. Now it’s in a state of complete chaos. If this organization continues at this pace, it will collapse completely. Even after the coup, our seniors said, the situation will be worse in future.

 They will definitely suffer the consequences. Astute soldiers can realize the situation.  Now the military has completely disintegrated. It will worsen, and is unable to restructure.   They could not stand anymore without public support.

TLT: Could you talk about any concluding remark?

Sergeant Zeya: It is very rare opportune time for the revolution forces to gain the momentum of attack.   The   EAOs have launched their coordinated attacks. The junta soldiers will surrender easily.

Our forces should not consider brutal torture of the military. The dignity of captives  must be maintained. We must systematically treat them in line with the prisoners of war law. Then, more soldiers will surrender to end the revolution soon successfully.

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