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Myanmar - Defense Industry

The day of the formation of the armed forces of Myanmar is the date of the liberation of the republic from Japanese militarism. The parade in honor of the 76th anniversary of the formation of the Armed Forces of Myanmar took place 27 March 2021 in the capital of the country, Naypyidaw. About 8 thousand servicemen marched along the parade ground. In the dynamic part of the parade, almost 200 units of military equipment and 45 units of helicopters and aircraft, including Russian-made ones, were presented: T-72 tanks, armored reconnaissance and patrol vehicles, MiG-29, Yak-130 aircraft, Mi-24, Mi-35, Mi-17 helicopters and others. World War II vintage Comet A34 tanks, Bren Gun Carriers, Humber armored cars, Dingo and Ferret scout cars in pristine condition paraded with modern Chinese-made vehicles of the Myanmar army. At the same time, most of the shown equipment and weapons, including artillery and missile-strike, are produced at the enterprises of the local defense industry.

The nation's defense industry was very small, initially supplying only uniforms, light arms, and ammunition. The government dockyards at Rangoon possessed limited shipbuilding capability. Burma's firm commitment to a nonaligned foreign policy and its persistent refusal after the early 1950s to accept anything it construed as foreign military aid meant that qualitative equipment upgrading for the nascent forces had to be financed almost exclusively from the nation's own scarce national resources. There was occasional relief from the stringent financial con straints that allowed for modest equipment upgrading, though not for a substantial improvement in overall capability.

This placed severe constraints on the armed forces development, which with nearly constant anti-insurgency campaigns were required to become very self-reliant, able to operate with little logistical support and under very spartan conditions. The ground forces, equipped mainly with light arms, developed into a small- unit, light infantry force, well suited to counterinsurgency campaigns. The navy and air force, by virtue of their small equipment inventories, functioned essentially as support elements for the army.

Most of the rest of military hardware was imported from various nations. Burma depended almost completely on foreign sources for its military equipment. Until 1954 Burma obtained such equipment entirely from the UK. In that year the Burmese, uneasy at the degree of British influence implicit in this situation and dissatisfied with the rate of British deliveries, terminated the exclusive arrangements. Burma since purchased arms from Italy, Switzerland,Israel, and Yugoslavia, as well as from the UK. These purchases further diversified the arms supply, but complicated training, maintenance, and operations.

After the government reached agreement with a West German manufacturer in the late 1950s to establish a licensed production facility in Burma, scarce foreign currency no longer had to be spent on light arms and ammunition, and these items were less frequently in short supply. In the same period, military hardware was purchased from Yugoslavia, Israel, and the United States, the last with foreign military sales credits. In the late 1970s and early 1980s major suppliers included Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Australia, and the United States.

Until 1988 Burma's defense equipment requirements were very modest. The government's emphasis on strategic independence and economic self-reliance, the poor performance of the economy after 1962, and the relatively modest demands of its counter-insurgency strategy all helped limit arms imports. When the SLORC assumed power, however, it immediately undertook a massive arms procurement program, raising defense capital equipment outlays to unprecedented heights. Increased emphasis was also given to indigenous arms production.

The tradition of maintaining a separation between military and civilian spheres has not taken root in Burma. From its inception, the BIA was essentially a political movement in military garb, and both before and after independence military officers kept in close contact with civilian politicians and filled posts in the national administration, particularly at local levels in areas where the government's structure was weak or nonexistent. Starting in 1951 a few officers gained experience in running economic enter prises through their involvement in the Defense Services Institute, which began as a modest organization responsible for obtaining food and uniforms for personnel. By the time it was nationlized in 1962, however, it controlled about 50 companies dealing in diverse pursuits such as domestic commerce, housing, international shipping, and book publishing. The performance of such nonmilitary roles was widely accepted as a legitimate.

The Defense and Security 2019 arms salon, which opened 19 November in Bangkok, is the first international defense exhibition in which Myanmar defense industry enterprises take part. A representative of the Myanmar Ground Forces, Colonel Nay Myo Ko, said Myanmar's demonstration of defense products at the international level is explained by the intention to enter foreign markets and develop cooperation in this area with foreign partners. As confirmed by Nai Myo Ko, Myanmar's national defense industry is showing its technology and products at an overseas defense exhibition for the first time. Myanmar, he said, "plans to start exporting military products and sees opportunities for cooperation with other countries of Southeast Asia." The list of products presented at Defense and Security 2019 includes mortars, grenade launchers, machine guns, rifles, other small arms, scopes and ammunition of large and small caliber made in Myanmar for its armed forces.

Also produced are infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers MAV 1, MAV 2 and BAAC APCs. Little is known about the MAV BMP, but it is reported that it consists of only 60% of components produced in the country, and some key parts, such as the MSA , turrets, engine and transmission, are purchased in China from NORINCO industries . In addition to the BTR-3U, BMP MAV and BTR BAAC, heavy weapons factories produce military trucks and jeeps for the Army, Air Force and Navy.

Myanmar is a notable buyer of products of the North Korean government to provide weapons and military equipment. As a result, the two countries have a close and mutually beneficial diplomatic relations. The relationship between the two countries under military rule also includes the exchange of labor. In 2009 , a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar to Washington outlined 300 North Korean technicians in Myanmar. They are said to be helping Myanmar build nuclear reactors. Myanmar independent media also reported that Myanmar has embarked on plans to develop nuclear weapons with the help of Pyongyang. These secret relationships took place with more open diplomatic cooperation. In 2008 , Burmese General Ruiman began an official visit to North Korea. During the visit, he checked missile sites and air defense radars before signing a bilateral security agreement with Pyongyang.

In February 2019 Myanmar's largest military company announced "significant changes" under its control of many core areas. Myanmar Economic Holding Company Limited (MEHL) announced through Myanmar's official media that in accordance with the 2017 Myanmar Companies Act, the company was renamed Myanmar Economic Holding Public Company Limited. It is said that the company's general meeting held in Nay Pyi Taw on February 6 passed a resolution to change the company's name. The board of directors of Myanmar Economic Holding Corporation stated that although the company has changed its name, the company's address and company objectives have not changed. The Myanmar Economic Holding Company was established in February 1990 in accordance with the "Myanmar Special Companies Ordinance" and is headquartered in Yangon. The founder of the company is the Ministry of Defense of Myanmar. The company’s shareholders are military personnel of the National Defense Forces (60% of the shares) and the National Defense Procurement Agency (40% of the shares). The subsidiaries of the Myanmar Economic Holding Company are: Myawaddy Bank; Myawaddy Tours & Travel; Myawaddy Enterprises Group; and Pyininbin Industrial Park (Pyininbin Industrial) Park).

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Page last modified: 31-03-2021 19:17:30 ZULU