Light Infantry Divisions and Military Operations Commands
By 2011 Myanmar's Army included a total of 12 large units denominated as "Light Infantry Divisions", as well as at least 21 and possibly as many as 27 similar units denominated as Military Operations Commands. The Light Infantry Divisions have an imaginative numbering system, reflecting the typical Burmese facination with numerology, while the Military Operations Commands have a rather mor prosaic sequential numbering system. The Light Infantry Divisions have simple distincitive unit insignia, consisting of the unit's numerical designation, while the Military Operations Command are not known to have distinctive unit insignia. The Light Infantry Divisions each consist of 10 Light Infantry Battalions, while the Military Operations Commands also each have 10 battalions, at least three of which are Mechanized Infantry Battalions. Both types of units have an intermediate Tactical Operation Group echelon between the battalions and the higher headquarters. Otherwise, the Military Operations Commands appear similar to the Light Infantry Divisions and there is no apparent reason that such minor differences in subsidiary organization should produce such striking differences in nomenclature and symbology.
But the Light Infantry Divisions are no more "divisions" than are the Military Operations Commands. Most maneuver units in Myanmar's Army are somewhere between under-manned and badly undermanned, with far fewer troops assigned than would be expected based on their notional Tables of Organization and Equipment [TOE] or the manning levels of foreign counterpart units. The so-called "battalions" are little more than companies, the Tactical Operation Groups are not brigades, but are rather battalions, and the Light Infantry Divisions and Military Operations Commands are little more than brigades. Myanmar's Army is not badly under-manned, but the Army as a whole is seriously over-officered.
Light Infantry Divisions
Light Infantry Division (Tat Ma, in Burmese), one of two types of “combat divisions” in the Myanmar Army. Light Infantry Divisions exist, but are normally for command organizations. Light Infantry Divisions (LIDs) are not permanently deployed to a geographical area but are directly subordinated to the Commander-in-Chief Army as “mobile” units deployable according to need. As such, their deployment is ordered at minimum from the Commander-in-Chief Army within the chain of command, likely with knowledge of the Commander-in-Chief. The Commander-in-Chief Army is also Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the whole Tatmadaw. The LIDs, along with air and artillery units, are strategic-level assets that would normally only be deployed with the authorization of the Commander-in-Chief. The LIDs are also considered the most battle-hardened and experienced units within the Tatmadaw. They are often deployed as the main strike force of an operation, and directed for use in counter-insurgency operations against non-State armed groups. Once deployed, LIDs fall under daily operational command of the relevant Regional Military Command. However, any subsequent re-deployment, such as back to their base or to another front, will be ordered by the Commander-in-Chief Army.
By 2011 a total of 12 Light Infantry Divisions, each with 10 Light Infantry Battalions, field a total of 120 Light Infantry Battalions, part of the major force build-up post-1988. In the 1990s, the six army infantry divisions, in addition to all naval and air units, remained at the disposal of the minister of defense, to be dispatched as necessary to the regional commands. One thing that has puzzled some analysts is that the Tactical Operation Group [TOGs] are identified with divisions, usually carrying a number derived from the division number, and are also identified as part of MOMCs. It seemed unclear whether this meant that there are two sets of TOGs, one as brigades of divisions, and the other as groups under the MRs [an overly complex relationship] or that the infantry divisions and Military Operations Commands detach TOGs to the Regional Commands [as seems likely].
The 33rd and 99th Light Infantry Divisions have been accused of committing crimes against civilians in Kachin and Shan States prior to August 2017. Rather than initiating credible and genuine investigations into these allegations, Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing escalated the situation in Rakhine State by deploying the 33rd and 99th Light Infantry Divisions into this zone earlier in August 2017, before the ARSA attacks of 25 August 2017. It should come as no surprise that some of the most egregious violations during the “clearance operations” were committed by these troops.
On 27 June 2018 Amnesty International published new research implicating specific military units in atrocities. They included the 33rd and 99th Light Infantry Divisions (LID), combat units in the Myanmar Army which were deployed to northern Rakhine State in mid-August 2017 and which massacred hundreds of Rohingya in the villages of Chut Pyin and Min Gyi later that month. These units had a history of abuse, and in late 2016 and early 2017 committed war crimes in northern Shan State. In early 2018, the 33rd LID has been deployed to Kachin State, and Amnesty had received alarming reports of human rights violations against ethnic minority civilians there. Amnesty International also identified by name 13 individuals – military officers and members of the Border Guard Police – who it believed should be investigated for command and/or direct responsibility for crimes against humanity. This responsibility extended to the top of the chain of command.
On 18 August 2018 the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned four Burmese military and Border Guard Police (BGP) commanders and two Burmese military units for their involvement in ethnic cleansing in Burma’s Rakhine State and other widespread human rights abuses in Burma’s Kachin and Shan States. "Burmese security forces have engaged in violent campaigns against ethnic minority communities across Burma, including ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings, and other serious human rights abuses. Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behavior as part of a broader U.S. government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide scale human suffering,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
The 33rd LID was designated for engaging in serious human rights abuse. The 33rd LID participated in abuses in Rakhine State, including the August 27, 2017 operation in Chut Pyin village. This operation included extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, and sexual violence, as well as firing on fleeing villagers. Hundreds were reportedly killed in this one operation alone. Members of the 33rd LID, along with other security forces, also participated in operations in Inn Din in August and September 2017. Nearly all of the thousands of Rohingya residing in Inn Din were driven out of the village. Ten Rohingya men and boys were captured, bound, and executed by security forces and militia. Two journalists remain detained for their role investigating the incident.
Aung Aung is designated on December 10, 2019 for being a leader of the 33rd LID, an entity that has engaged in or whose members have engaged in serious human rights abuse under his command. The 33rd LID participated in abuses in Rakhine State, including the August 27, 2017 operation in Chut Pyin village. This operation included extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, and sexual violence, as well as firing on fleeing villagers. More than 100 people were reportedly killed in this one operation alone. The 33rd LID was designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 on August 17, 2018, for engaging in serious human rights abuse.
Khin Hlaing is designated on August 17, 2018 for having been the leader of the 99th LID, a military entity whose members have engaged in serious human rights abuse during his tenure. The 99th LID participated in abuses, including in November 2016 when 99th LID soldiers in Mong Ko, Shan State detained ethnic Kachin and Chinese minority villagers. For 13 days, the villagers were forced to serve as human shields by lying down between rows of fences encircling the 99th LID element’s outpost. The villagers were forced to stay lying down, exposed to the elements, gunfire, and grenade attacks while 99th LID soldiers sheltered behind them while fighting with militia forces. The 99th LID also engaged in beatings, killings, forced disappearances, and other abuses in Shan State.
The 99th LID was designated on August 17, 2018 for engaging in serious human rights abuse. The 99th LID participated in abuses in Mong Ko and elsewhere in Shan State detailed above. In 2017, the 99th LID was deployed to Rakhine State and participated in serious human rights abuses alongside the 33rd LID and other security forces. In one operation in Min Gyi Village, hundreds of men, women, and children were reportedly forced to the nearby river bank where the 99th LID opened fire, executing many of the men, and forced women and girls to nearby houses where they were sexually assaulted. A number of these women and children were later stabbed and beaten, with the houses set fire while they were inside.
Than Oo was designated on December 10, 2019 for being a leader of the 99th Light Infantry Division (LID), an entity that has engaged in or whose members have engaged in serious human rights abuse under his command. In 2017, the 99th LID deployed to Rakhine State and, while there, participated in serious human rights abuses alongside the 33rd LID and other security forces. In one operation in Tula Toli, hundreds of men, women, and children were reportedly forced to the nearby riverbank where the 99th LID opened fire, executing many of the men, and forced women and girls to nearby houses where they were sexually assaulted. A number of these women and children were later stabbed and beaten, with the houses set fire while they were inside. The 99th LID was designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 on August 17, 2018, for engaging in serious human rights abuse.
|Division||HQ||Area of Operations||strength|
|11th Light Infantry Division||Hlegu (near Rangoon)||Central Security||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|12th Light Infantry Division||Tennesserim||identified 2003||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|20th Light Infantry Division||Pakokku||Mobile Reserve||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|22nd Light Infantry Division||Pa-an||Karen State||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|33rd Light Infantry Division||Sagaing||Shan & Kachin States||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|44th Light Infantry Division||Thaton||Karen State||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|55th Light Infantry Division||Aungban||South Shan State||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|66th Light Infantry Division||Prome||North Shan State||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|77th Light Infantry Division||Pegu||Central Shan State||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|88th Light Infantry Division||Magwe||Karen State||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|99th Light Infantry Division||Meiktila||Karen State||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
|101st Light Infantry Division||Tennesserim||identified 2003||10 x Light Infantry Battalions|
Military Operations Commands
The Army is comprised of six Bureaus of Special Operations (BSO), which are considered the first level of operational-level command. Each BSO is responsible for a particular geographic region. Each geographic region is then divided among Regional Military Commands (RMCs). For example, BSO-3 is comprised of three RMCs, the Western Regional Command, Southern Regional Command, and the South-western Military Command. Each Regional Military Command will have between one and three “Combat Divisions” subordinated to it, usually called Military Operational Commands (MOCs), which are comprised of as many as ten infantry battalions. For example, the Western Regional Command, responsible for Rakhine State, had MOC-5, MOC-9 and MOC-15 under its command as well as other infantry battalions. It may also have auxiliary forces subordinated to it for specific operations.
A total of at least 21 Military Operations Commands, each with 10 Infantry Battalions, field a total of 210 Infantry Battalions. A total of thirty Military Operations Management Commands [a term that seems to cover both Military Operations Commands and Light Infantry Divisions] are planned [a number probably associated with the eventual goal of 500,000 troops]. And as of 2009 as many as 27 were reported by orbat.com to have been formed, though only 21 have been publicly identified. According to orbat.com, the MOMCs, headed by brigadier generals, operate under the regional commands [led by major generals]. The MOMCs became necessary with the proliferation of new battalions.
Controlling ten battalions, a MOMC is similar to a division HQ. In contrast to the Light Infantry Division, which is a pure force of Light Infantry Battalions, the Military Operations Command is a mixed unit of Mechanized (BTR-3 armored personal carrier) and Motorized [truck-mounted] infantry battalions. It incorporates the HQ and troops of a Tactical Operation Group (sometimes called command), the brigade sized formation which previously controlled infantry battalions under the Military Regional Commands, as well as new raisings. Each Tactical Operation Group is equivalent to a brigade, with 3-4 infantry battalions.
The ten Infantry Battalions [with support units including field artillery batteries] are organized under three Tactical Operations Commands : one Mechanized Tactical Operations Command (with BTR-3 armored personal carriers) and two Motorized Tactical Operations Command (with EQ-2102 6x6 trucks). If the supporting troops were at full strength, an MOMC would consist of 9,000 troops in three Mechanized Infantry Battalions and six Motorized Infantry Battalions [and a tenth battalion of uncertain composition]. Confusingly, wiki simultaneously reports that all ten are "Mechanized Infantry battalions equipped with BTR-3 Armored Personnel Carriers..." but this is inconsistent with the much lower number of Mechanized Infantry battalions - apparently just 71 - otherwise reported by wiki.
Khin Maung Soe is designated was designated on August 17, 2018 for having been a leader of the Military Operations Command (MOC) 15, an entity whose members engaged in serious human rights abuse during his tenure. Members of MOC 15 participated in the Maung Nu massacre on August 27, 2017, and other abuses in Rakhine State. In Maung Nu, soldiers reportedly beat, sexually assaulted, and summarily executed or otherwise killed dozens of Rohingya villagers.
|1st Military Operations Command (MOC-1)||Kyaukme||Shan State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|2nd Military Operations Command (MOC-2)||Mong Nawng||Shan State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|3rd Military Operations Command (MOC-3)||Mogaung||Kachin State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|4th Military Operations Command (MOC-4)||Hpugyi||Yangon Region||10 x Infantry Battalions Designated Airborne Division|
|5th Military Operations Command (MOC-5)||Taungup||Rakhine State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|6th Military Operations Command (MOC-6)||Pyinmana||Mandalay Region||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|7th Military Operations Command (MOC-7)||Hpegon||Shan State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|8th Military Operations Command (MOC-8)||Dawei||Tanintharyi Region||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|9th Military Operations Command (MOC-9)||Kyauktaw||Rakhine State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|10th Military Operations Command (MOC-10)||Kyigon||Sagaing Region||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|11th Military Operations Command (MOC-11)||Loilem||Shan State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|12th Military Operations Command (MOC-12)||Kawkareik||Kayin State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|13th Military Operations Command (MOC-13)||Bokpyin||Tanintharyi Region||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|14th Military Operations Command (MOC-14)||Mong Hsat||Shan State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|15th Military Operations Command (MOC-15)||Buthidaung||Rakhine State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|16th Military Operations Command (MOC-16)||Theinni||Shan State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|17th Military Operations Command (MOC-17)||Mong Pan||Shan State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|18th Military Operations Command (MOC-18)||Mong Hpayak||Shan State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|19th Military Operations Command (MOC-19)||Ye||Mon State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|20th Military Operations Command (MOC-20)||Kawthaung||Tanintharyi Region||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|21st Military Operations Command (MOC-21)||Bhamo||Kachin State||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|22nd Military Operations Command (MOC-22)||??||??||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|23rd Military Operations Command (MOC-23)||??||??||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|24th Military Operations Command (MOC-24)||??||??||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|25th Military Operations Command (MOC-25)||??||??||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|26th Military Operations Command (MOC-26)||??||??||10 x Infantry Battalions|
|27th Military Operations Command (MOC-27)||??||??||10 x Infantry Battalions|
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