A year after the National League for Democracy’s 2015 election victory, as I was wandering about the massive Tatmadaw Museum in Naypyitaw, I could not help but be awed by the scale of the Myanmar military’s gratuitous ode to itself. It sprawls across numerous caverns covering the minutiae of its history. Hiding in its bulk is one room dedicated to the Tatmadaw’s “victories”. What it claims as historic triumphs are battles to control hilltops. While important in terms of individual counterinsurgency campaigns, this presentation masks a reality.
The generals managed to provoke a nationwide uprising against the Tatmadaw. There are few comparable examples of such an event since World War II and the period of anti-colonial wars. There is nothing pre-determined about what will happen in Myanmar, certainly not the Tatmadaw’s survival. The coup was a historic shift in the country and a strategic blunder of existential proportions by the generals.