By MIN LWIN
The Burmese armed forces has systematically and continually increased the strength of its battalions stationed in ethnic areas where armed groups have signed ceasefire agreements with the junta, according to armed forces’ documents leaked to The Irrawaddy recently.
When it took over the country in a military coup in 1988, the Burmese military government had only eight light infantry divisions stationed in central Burma under nine regional military commands.
However, since the 1988 coup, the junta has signed ceasefire agreements with more than 17 armed ethnic groups, and has formed and deployed several new battalions in former rebel strongholds, especially in the early 1990s.
At the command level, new Regional Operation Commands (ROCs) and Military Operation Commands (MOCs) have been stationed in ceasefire group-controlled areas since 1990.
The Tatmadaw, or Burmese army, opened the ROC (Loikaw) in Karenni State in 1992 to facilitate command and control in the area, and soon after it formed the ROC (Bamaw) in Kachin State to control the Kachin Independence Army’s troops.
According to the leaked document, ROC (Mongsat) was also formed to bolster Tatmadaw forces in United Wa State Army-controlled areas in eastern Shan State, close to the Thai-Burmese border.
The document also indicated that ROC (Lauki) was formed and deployed in the Kokang rebel area to coordinate with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, which signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese junta in 1989.
The ROC (Mong Phyet) was formed in eastern Shan State close to the area under the control of the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State, which signed a ceasefire with the junta in 1990.
The commander of an ROC is equivalent to the Light Infantry Division’s commander and he generally deploys at least five battalions in the ethnic area he is assigned to. The ROC commander thereafter assumes responsibility for the financial, administrative and judicial authority in his area.
According to the Tatmadaw document, several MOCs were formed in 1995: Kyaukme in northern Shan State; Loilin and Phekhon in southern Shan State; Moe Kaung in Kachin State; and Kaukayeik in Karen State.
MOCs in Mongpan (Shan State), Mong Pyin (Shan State) and Ye in Mon State were reportedly formed to organize military activities in these areas more efficiently.
According to Burmese defense scholar Maung Aung Myoe, the MOC is equivalent to the LID, as both command 10 battalions, with a brigadier-general as commander.
By 2008, the Burmese army had 504 infantry battalions under 13 ROCs, 10 Light Infantry Divisions, 20 MOCs and six Regional Commands.