A group of Kachin village dwellers in the mountains of northern Myanmar sat on sculptured seats in a court room in a nearby army complex on a light afternoons in January this year. A few meters away were six troops who had been sentenced for abduction, torture and murder of three of the village inhabitants' families near a refugee camps in war-torn Kachin State a few month before.
Tatmadaw, as Myanmar's army is called, has been terrorizing civilians in Kachin and elsewhere for centuries, perpetrating rape, massacre, mass expulsion and tortures with absolute immunity, especially against the country's many indigenous nationalities. The reckless Rohingya anti-Rakhine government coalition in the west of Rakhine has suppressed some 700,000 members of the Islamic majority since August last year and consolidated the military's call as inviolable.
In Myanmar, where the Rohingya are depicted as foreign and terrorist, the camp has largely reinforced the military's role as the most important power brokers, even after the end of the 2011 regime. However, in recent years there have been a fistful of cases in which troops have been sentenced for horrific acts, among them a Rohingya slaughter in Rakhine and murders of Shan village dwellers in the eastern part of the state.
Yet it is noteworthy that a longstanding denialist army is carrying out these processes at all. The lawsuits are a disappointment for some psychiatrists to reassure criminals when a soldier is found red-handed. Some see it as a first stage that alone is not enough in the struggle for responsibility - and possibly as an expression of real changes within the war.
Tatmadaw's best-known sentence so far followed the slaughter of 10 Rohingya men and men in the town of Inn Din last year. In April, seven troops were sentenced to 10 years of forced labour - but only after the killings of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were uncovered. As a consequence, they were imprisoned for up to 14 years under the country's official secrecy law.
Her synopsis cited for the first the Rakhine Buddhists who added to the flaming homes and killed Rohingya. A policy of responsibility for mass atrocities. Myanmar's commanders have not started all of a sudden to take action on behalf of the people. Rather, they realize that it can help their interests to fight some of the most ugly excess that has made the Tatmadaw a-paria.
I' m sure the army wants more credentials in some way. The Tatmadaw, as part of this scheme, wants to place itself as a decent, contemporary power that plays an important part in the transitional process. When Myanmar opened up, ended the immediate medial censure and allowed greater free expression, the general became more aware of the perception of the media at home and abroad.
"You want to be addressed, appropriate and civilized," said John Blaxland, a former Myanmar and Thailand defence attaché who now leads the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the National University. However, the pursuit of legality did not stop the army from massacring the state of Rakhine last August and reacting to world criticism with denial.
First, the Tatmadaw's legality is not just about the perception of the United States and Europe. China, Russia and other confederates promised Myanmar their assistance during the crises, while their "evacuation operations" were also widespread within Myanmar, where many report of Rohingya horrors considered excessive or counterfeit.
After the Rohingya fighters' attack on frontier guards, the commanders acted as defence of the country's independence against a hostile alien terrorism, legitimising their part in the war. Tatmadaw may not have reckoned with such a severe setback from abroad. Their reputations hardly hurt less than a year before the August bombings, when the Rakhine troops conducted a similar burnt soil mission, although to a lesser extent.
Over 65,000 Rohingya were compelled to escape to Bangladesh when from October 2016 onwards innocent people were burnt, violated and fatal. It' s also possible that the Tatmadaw was expecting a much bigger match than in 2016, but it still wouldn't make much difference. Noise from last year's attack has been high, but the effects of the army have so far been negligible.
United States has cancelled aid to the repressive forces and imposes penalties on a single general, Maung Maung Soe, who supervised the war. Some right-wing campaigners denounced this month's ruling by the European Union and Canada to impose penalties on seven officers of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies without Min Aung Hlaing as "pathetic".
"Mine is that they have done this thinking they can get away with it as they have got away with many other cruelties against minority groups," Blaxland said. The conviction of troops is helping the armed forces to reject demands for foreign accounts. In May, when the United Nations Security Council representatives declared that they would investigate the Rakhine violent incident, Min Aung Hlaing replied that the armed forces had investigated allegations of abuse during earlier outbreaks of force and penalized the offenders.
In all recent sentences, a shared element is that the criminals have collected proof from the community of civic groups, attorneys, reporters or campaigners that made it plausible for the army to disavow the atrocities. Following the killings of the three men in Kachin state, pro Bono attorneys contacted to counsel the family to make declarations, and civic life got underway quickly by setting up a commission to bring the culprits to justice.
The case would have triggered an uproar if the army had chosen not to pursue the killers," said David Baulk, a Myanmar-based investigator who assisted in monitoring the case for Fortify Rights, an interest group. Waelone's report for Reuters also assisted in convicting seven troops for another slaughter in the town of Mong Yaw, Shan State, in 2016.
Said David Mathieson, an impartial psychoanalyst who was a Human Rights Watch investigator at the moment and went to Mong Yaw to look into the case, that the army was forced to react partially because the case went out into the open so quickly, and then followed Reuters. Mín Zaw Oo, a former insurgent who was later to negotiate a truce between the Tatmadaw and insurgent groups as head of the Myanmar Peace Centre, said there appears to be little effort within the army to address certain abuse.
The use of infantile troops by the army has also declined since the beginning of the reforms as well. "There' s a powerful mood in the Tatmadaw that acknowledges the Tatmadaw illegitimacy crises as an institution," said Min Zaw Oo. However, the incidental rhetoric of the Rakhine camp leaves us in doubt as to how far this self-checking can go.
It may be different that other minority groups are seen as annoying and backward, but in essence a part of the country, but the Rohingya were robbed or deprived of their nationality and have been dehumanised for years. And even those who are defending the military's action do so in the tongue of hate, like the commandant who used what has become customary among apologists: that the Rohingya woman cannot have been violated by the armies because they are too bad.
But abuse is still widespread among other minority groups - and the military's attempts to control it seem to be more focused on PR than on a real end to the problem of amnesty. "Any gullible attempt to promote public order would begin with lawsuits for generalists who are the architect of a campaign of violence against civilians," said Matt Bugher, who has investigated Tatmadaw abuse and is now the leader of the Asia Programme in the legal group, Art. 19.
An overwhelming proportion of violent crime, including that backed by numerous pieces of proof, goes unpunished. 3. The six Kachin state troops were sentenced in January of the same month, and two other civilian men from the same displaced persons camps as the three men killed were found massacred.