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Burma Military - 2024


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Military and security forces

Burmese Defense Service (aka Armed Forces of Burma, Myanmar Army, Royal Armed Forces, the Tatmadaw, or the Sit-Tat): Army (Tatmadaw Kyi), Navy (Tatmadaw Yay), Air Force (Tatmadaw Lay); People’s Militia

Ministry of Home Affairs: Burma (People's) Police Force, Border Guard Forces/Police (2023)

note 1: under the 2008 constitution, the Tatmadaw controls appointments of senior officials to lead the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Border Affairs, and the Ministry of Home Affairs; in March 2022, a new law gave the commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw the authority to appoint or remove the head of the police force

note 2: the Burma Police Force is primarily responsible for internal security; the Border Guard Police is administratively part of the Burma Police Force but operationally distinct; both are under the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is led by an active-duty military general and itself subordinate to the military command

Military expenditures

3.4% of GDP (2023 est.)
3% of GDP (2022 est.)
3.3% of GDP (2021 est.)
3% of GDP (2020 est.)
4.1% of GDP (2019 est.)

Military and security service personnel strengths

estimates vary widely, from approximately 150,000 to as many as 400,000 active personnel (2023)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Burmese military inventory is comprised mostly of older Chinese and Russian/Soviet-era equipment with a smaller mix of more modern acquisitions from a variety of countries; in recent years, China and Russia have been the leading suppliers of military hardware; Burma has a limited defense industry, including a growing shipbuilding capability and some production of ground force equipment that is largely based on Chinese and Russian designs (2023)

Military service age and obligation

18-35 years of age (men) and 18-27 years of age (women) for voluntary and conscripted military service; 24-month service obligation; conscripted professional men (ages 18-45) and women (ages 18-35), including doctors, engineers, and mechanics, serve up to 36 months; service terms may be extended to 60 months in an officially declared emergency (2024)

note: in February 2024, the military government announced that the People’s Military Service Law requiring mandatory military service would go into effect; the Service Law was first introduced in 2010 but had not previously been enforced; the military government also said that it intended to call up about 60,000 men and women annually for mandatory service; during the ongoing insurgency, the military has recruited men 18-60 to serve in local militias

Military - note

since the country’s founding, the Tatmadaw has been heavily involved in domestic politics and the national economy; it ran the country for five decades following a military coup in 1962; prior to the most recent coup in 2021, the military already controlled three key security ministries (Defense, Border, and Home Affairs), one of two vice presidential appointments, 25% of the parliamentary seats, and had a proxy political party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP); it owns and operates two business conglomerates that have over 100 subsidiaries; the business activities of these conglomerates include banking and insurance, hotels, tourism, jade and ruby mining, timber, construction, real estate, and the production of palm oil, sugar, soap, cement, beverages, drinking water, coal, and gas; some of the companies supply goods and services to the military, such as food, clothing, insurance, and cellphone service; the military also manages a film industry, publishing houses, and television stations

the Tatmadaw's primary operational focus is internal security, and it is conducting counterinsurgency operations against anti-regime forces that launched an armed rebellion following the 2021 coup and an array of ethnic armed groups (EAGs), some of which have considerable military capabilities; it has been accused of committing atrocities in the conduct of its campaign against the pro-democracy movement and opposition forces 

the military's primary focus is counterinsurgency; the Army is the dominant service and its principal combat forces are organized into 10 centrally-commanded light infantry/rapid reaction divisions, which have a key role in fighting against insurgents; the light infantry divisions are supported by approximately 20 regionally-based, divisional-sized “military operations commands” and several brigade-sized “regional operations commands”; the Army’s counterinsurgency operations are supported by the National Police, which has dozens of paramilitary combat police battalions; the Air Force also has a large counterinsurgency role with more than 100 combat-capable aircraft and helicopters, mostly ground attack aircraft and helicopter gunships, complemented by some multipurpose fighters; the Navy has traditionally been a coastal defense force, and the majority of the combat fleet consists of fast attack and patrol vessels; however, in recent years the Navy has expanded its blue water capabilities and has a small force of frigates and corvettes, as well as a landing platform docking (LPD) amphibious assault ship and two attack submarines acquired since 2020

the military is supported by hundreds of pro-government militias; some are integrated within the Tatmadaw’s command structure as Border Guard Forces, which are organized as battalions with a mix of militia forces, EAGs, and government soldiers that are armed, supplied, and paid by the Tatmadaw; other pro-military government militias are not integrated within the Tatmadaw command structure but receive direction and some support from the military and are recognized as government militias; a third type of pro-government militias are small community-based units that are armed, coordinated, and trained by local Tatmadaw forces and activated as needed; the military regime has attempted to raise new militia units to help combat the popular uprising

EAGs have been fighting for self-rule against the Burmese Government since 1948; there are approximately 20 such groups operating in Burma with strengths of a few hundred up to more than 25,000 estimated fighters; some are organized along military lines with "brigades" and "divisions" and armed with heavy weaponry, including artillery; they control large tracts of the country’s territory, primarily in the border regions; key groups include the United Wa State Army, Karen National Union, Kachin Independence Army, Arakan Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army

the opposition National Unity Government claims its armed wing, the People's Defense Force (PDF), has more than 60,000 fighters loosely organized into battalions; in addition, several EAGs have cooperated with the NUG and supported local PDF groups (2023)

NOTE: The information regarding Burma on this page is re-published from the 2024 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Burma 2024 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Burma 2024 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 04 May 24, Copyright © 2024 ITA all rights reserved.