The armed forces of the Union of Myanmar. Because this Burmese term contains the honorific suffix "daw," many persons critical of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) regime prefer the generic term sit tat ("army"). But Tatmadaw remains the most common term to describe the armed forces in the Burmese (Myanmar) language, having been first used by its founder, General Aung San.
   The Tatmadaw comprises three services: the Army (Tatmadaw Kyi), Navy (Tatmadaw Yay), and Air Force (Tatmadaw Lei). Of the three, the Army is the most important in terms of political influence, number of personnel, and historical role in fighting both domestic and foreign opponents of the central government. Since 1988, all three services have undergone significant expansion in personnel and equipment. In the late 1980s, the total number of Tatmadaw personnel was 186,000. By the end of the 20th century, this number exceeded 400,000, with the largest increase in the Army. Economic difficulties in the early 21st century seem to have precluded further expansion to a stated goal of 500,000.
   The Tatmadaw is under the authority of the Ministry of Defence, which in 2005 was headed by Senior General Than Shwe, who served concurrently as chairman of the SPDC and commander in chief of the armed forces. The Ministry of Defence functions both as a government department and as an integrated command headquarters for the three services, and was located in the walled and heavily guarded Defence Services Compound in downtown Rangoon (Yangon) before being relocated to a new headquarters at Eight Mile Junction, north of Inya Lake. In 2005, Tatmadaw and defense ministry headquarters were transferred to the new national capital outside of Pyinmana, in Mandalay Division. Since 1989, the commander in chief of the Tatmadaw has been a senior (five-star) general, the commander of the Army has been a full (four-star) general, and the commanders of the Navy and Air Force have been lieutenant (three-star) generals. Burma is divided into 12 Regional Military Commands (RMC), increased from nine during the 1990s. Each RMC commander is an Army officer of major general (two-star) rank.
   Unlike the armed forces in most Western countries, the Tatmadaw plays primarily an internal security role. For example, Light Infantry Division 11, a rapid response force, was established to keep order in Rangoon after the 1988 unrest. However, enhanced numbers and new equipment also give it greater ability to project its power beyond its borders, especially in historically tense and complex relations with Thailand.
   See also Administration of Burma, State Law and Order Restoration Council/ State Peace and Development Council Era; Myanmar Police Force; Tatmadaw and Burmese Society; Tatmadaw, Economic Role of; Tatmadaw, History of.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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