Burma

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Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar)

Burma is officially known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar by the ruling miltiary junta. Incorporated into the British Indian Empire om 1886, it remained thus until becoming a self-governing colony in 1937. Occupired by Imperial Japan during the Second World War, Burma was the setting for intense guerilla jungle fighting and the birthplace of several commando-type units such as the Chindits and the American-Kachin Rangers. Britain retook control of the nation in 1945, and three years later in 1948 the nation emerged as the independent Union of Burma.

In March of 1962, a military coup d'etat led by General Ne Win wrested control of the nation from the legitimate government and ruled the nation as a one-party Socialist state until 1987. A collective series of protests, demonstrations and riots in 1988, known as the 8888 Uprising, resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and a government under new military junta calling itself the State Law and Order Restoration Council. Renamed the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, the military has retained firm control of the nation into the present era, nullifying election results, suppressing political dissent, and fending off insurgency movements. The government of Burma is considered one of the world's most repressive and abusive regimes by several human rights organizations.

Several insurgent movements have emerged since the 1970s to wage armed opposition to the military government. The Shan State Army have been operating in that region since the 1980s. The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) operate primarily in eastern Burma, and have been fighting for the self-determination of the Karen people since 1949. The Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) - formerly the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army - is a breakaway group of Buddhist independent fighters, formerly members of the KNLA, that formed in 1994. Shortly after forming, the DKBA signed a cease fire with the Burmese government, and was informally considered an ally of the military junta for several years, primarily engaged against the KNLA. This alliance broke down in 2010 in the aftermath of elections, and in November of that year it was reported that the DKBA had joined forces with the KNLA against the Burmese government, coming full circle.

The Burmese Armed Forces are known as the Tatmadaw, and consist of the Myanmar Army, Navy, Air Force and Police Force. People's Militia units also exist, as well as Frontier Units called Na Sa Kha. Historically, the Armed Forces of this nation have not worn any type of camouflage uniform. Circa 2005, a series of three patterns emerged during public military parades. By contrast, the insurgent movements have adopted several camouflage patterns imported from Thailand, China and other sources.

Camouflage Patterns of the Myanmar Armed Forces

  • First appearing in 2005, a series of three camouflage designs are now issued to the Burmese Armed Forces, one for each of the major branches of service. The Army pattern is a variant of the woodland camouflage design incorporating black, brown & dark green woodland shapes on lime green background.

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  • The Air Force camouflage pattern has black, brown & beige woodland shapes on light tan background.

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  • The Navy pattern incorporates black & grey woodland shapes on mottled blue & pale green background.

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  • The Special Operations Task Force currently wear a more literal copy of the US-designed woodland pattern, seen here.

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  • Another woodland variation is seen here, worn by Army personnel assigned special duties.

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  • Also documented in use with Myanmar Army personnel is another leaf copy pattern, seen here. Interestingly enough, the pattern seems to be produced only as a kind of field jacket, and documentation indicates its use is restricted to officers.

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  • Although not issued as a standardized field uniform, some personnel of the People's Police Force (Myanmar Police) wear a woodland-type camouflage pattern with a blue or purple colorway. This pattern is most often seen as a helmet and vest cover, although there are photographs documenting full uniforms in use as well.

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  • The Border Guard Force (BGF) is also documented as wearing a woodland-variant camouflage pattern, almost suitable for desert terrain. The design incoporates dark brown, medium brown and sand-colored shapes on a very light tan background. A pixelated variation of this pattern has also been observed, but photographs remain elusive.

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  • Documented in parades seen in 2016, a pixelated version of the woodland camouflage pattern is now worn by members of the Myanmar Army. The pattern appears to have a black, medium brown, grass green and khaki color palette.

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  • Another pixelated pattern is worn by the Myanmar Navy, and uses a color palette incorporating black, grey, medium blue and light grey.

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Camouflage Designs in use with Anti-Government Factions

  • In the mid-1980s, combatants from the Shan State Army were wearing Thai "shadowtiger" tiger stripe pattern camouflage uniforms in some numbers.

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  • The KNLA during the mid-1980s have been documented wearing a leaf camouflage pattern, also probably of Thai origin.

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  • Another leaf design worn by the KNLA is seen here. The pattern is very crudely printed and may even be locally produced, although it is more likely to have been imported from Thailand.

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  • The blue woodland camouflage design seen here has also been worn by the KNLA (circa 1991) and appears to be the same Thai made design worn by the KPNLF in Cambodia.

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  • Also scattered amongst the KNLA is Thai-made "wine leaf" pattern camouflage.

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  • As with many of the other insurgent units operating against the Burmese government, the DKBA has employed military uniforms and equipment from a variety of sources. Among the camouflage patterns documented in the DKBA have been the Chinese PLA type 07 "general issue" camouflage design, a dark tiger stripe pattern, and both woodland and leaf designs. Many of these uniforms undoubtedly came from sources in Thailand, which borders the traditional DKBA territory, and shares religious beliefs with many of the Karen Buddhists.

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  • The Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) is composed of ethnic Palaung people from the Shan state, and is the armed wing of the Palaung State Liberation Organization (PSLO). Their primary purpose has been to protect the region from military incursions by the armed forces of Myanmar, to which purpose they have often fought alongside the KIA and the SSPP/SSA. Additionally, the TNLA has since 2012 waged a "war" on opium production in its native region, which is reputedly responsible for fostering chemical dependency issues with more than half of the male population. Members of this movement have been documented wearing a variety of camouflage uniforms from various sources, including multiple types of woodland camouflage, surplus PLA (Chinese Army) uniforms, and at least one DPM derivative of undetermined origin.

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  • In the modern era, circa 2014, the Shan State Army has appeared in public wearing a unique camouflage design that incorporates a leopard motif into the design of jagged black and dark olive shapes on a pale green background.

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