Britain’s Ambassador to Burma Andrew Patrick defended his government’s decision to initiate a training programme for the Burmese armed forces in early January, saying the course will not enhance the Burmese military’s combat ability.
Ambassador Patrick was speaking in response to a question by DVB on whether – taking into account the Burmese army’s dismal human rights – such training could be put to negative purposes.
“The course will not enhance the Burmese military’s combat ability, so we don’t think there is a risk of the training being misused,” said Ambassador Patrick, who succeeded Andrew Heyn in Rangoon in August.
“The training will focus on the role of the military in a democratic context,” he said. “The training will take place in a classroom, and draw on lecturers from Cranfield University and the UK Defence Academy. It will take place in Naypyidaw from 6- 17 January. Topics covered include governance in transitional democracies, and civilian control of the armed forces.”
Britain’s Ministry of Defence announced last week that a joint civilian and military team from its Defence Academy will provide training to 30 members of the Burmese armed forces and Burmese government next month.
According to a 25 December report in the Daily Telegraph, Mark Francois, the UK Minister for the Armed Forces, said: “The Tatmadaw [Burmese army] remain a key political force in Burma, therefore we seek to encourage them to support democratic reform through our influence and with education.”
However, in the same report, David Mathieson, a Burma researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the Tatmadaw were still regularly committing atrocities, and stood accused of attacking refugee camps in Kachin state within the past few weeks.
“The Burmese Army has got a terrible reputation,” he is quoted as saying. “It has an abusive modus operandi in its DNA.”