By Professor Chaw Chaw Sein
Civil-military relations (CMR) is important for consolidation of democracy, especially for a country in transition from military to civilian administration. Myanmar’s transition since 2011 has been praised by the world due to its peaceful transition and positive reforms. It is no doubt that eight years of its transition is still young and facing with challenges ahead. In this context, it is necessary to have healthy CMR environment in order to tackle these challenges. International collaboration is also one of the supporting factors that can bridge CMR. Here, I would like to highlight an institute, which conduct as a bridge for CMR for the countries in the regions. The Institute is known as Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS). It is a Department of Defense academic institute that addresses regional and global security issues through various events, attended by Asia-Pacific security practitioners. Since being established on 4 September 1995 in Honolulu, Hawaii, APCSS has built – and continues to build – relationships of trust and confidence among current and future leaders and decision-makers within the Asia-Pacific region. Since its inception, APCSS has run numerous courses, conducted many workshops, and published many documents in effort to advance security in the Asia-Pacific region. The collaboration between Myanmar and APCSS has taken place since 2013 and a hundred and seventy-six fellows (51% civilian and 49% military) from Myanmar had participated the courses offered by APCSS. Among them, thirty-two fellows are women.
Let me highlight three events that I had participated in APCSS. My first participation was the workshop on “Building Inclusive Security Sector in Myanmar”, held in Nay Pyi Taw from 15 through 19 August 2016. It was jointly hosted by Myanmar National Defense College and APCSS. The aim of the bilateral workshop was to share information and to explore potential paths to further enable the security sector transformation and development process in Myanmar. The joint workshop brought together senior officials from Myanmar governmental and security organizations to develop a shared perspective on critical, non-traditional security challenges. The participants were mixed with civilian and military officers. It was a great opportunity for both civilian and military to work together for the understanding of security issues facing the country and finding the way to draft the strategy for action plan.
In December 2016, I was nominated by the Ministry of Education together with four officers from the Ministry of Defense to attend the five-day workshop on “Security Sector Development: National Priorities and Regional Approaches” at APCSS, Honolulu. The five-day workshop was the interaction of multinational whole of government Security Sector Development engagement. The workshop provided five multi-agency cohorts from selected Indian Ocean littoral countries (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar and Sri Lanka), a platform for enhanced shared understanding of the evolving priorities of national security sectors and the development of a country-specific security sector section plan. Workshop participants had a mixture of professional backgrounds and included military officials, senior military defense, law enforcement, foreign affairs and academia. The workshop enabled creation by each country cohort of a country-specific plan related to an important national Security Sector Development issue, as well as creating a networking mechanism for enhanced security sector collaboration within and between each participant country.
I was nominated again by my Ministry to attend the course on Comprehensive Security Response to Terrorism (CSRT 18-1) at APCSS. It was a four-week course from 12 July to 8 August 2018. It is an honour for me to be back at APCSS as alumni. Truly, it is my pleasure to be part of this distinguish set of people coming from 49 countries and organizations all over the world, representing Southeast Asia, Oceania, South Asia, Middle East and Latin America. This could have not happened without the continued efforts undertaken by APCSS in formulating programmes that would be beneficial for the practitioners in combating terrorism. Of the 108 participants, 64% were from military organizations and law enforcement agencies, with others representing various government ministries, foreign affairs departments and intelligence services and academic institutions.
Let me share some salient points about the course on CSRT provided by APCSS. Firstly, APCSS educates and connects us as security practitioners but also helps us share understanding of security threats, challenges that we face today and how to deal with them. Secondly, APCSS makes a lifelong network of professionals (civilian) and security practitioners (military) that will continue to exchange, share and support each other. Thirdly, attending this course gives us the opportunity to know and understand, to hear and learn from the experience of all other fellows from many different countries. It offers a good platform and environment for reflection, learning and exchange of ideas and to explore the nature of current and future terrorist threats. It also contributes to achieve a common understanding of global and regional terrorism challenges through lectures from the faculty experts and guest speakers.
Finally, the most interesting programme offered by APCSS is a “Fellow Project”. Each participating fellow needs to submit project proposal that will help improve security sector governance and the capacity of nations to deal with security matters. More specifically, the Fellow’s Project is designed to directly support us in our work and should involve some aspect of security-based cooperation. My Fellow Project is “Proposal for MA (Security and Strategic Studies) at the University of Yangon”. The aim of my Fellow Project is to have healthy CMR with civilian control over military as a long-term goal. In order to meet this goal, it is necessary to produce civilian security experts in academic that will support the security oversight over military. The project cannot be successful without support of my Department (IR), University of Yangon and APCSS. The first step of the action plan for the project is to draft a curriculum. The second step is to get approval from the Board of Study, University Senate and Ministry of Education. I do believe that this project will contribute a stable democratic transition of Myanmar and will support the CMR in nation building, state building, trust building and peace building.
I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to my Ministry and my country for giving me a chance to attend this course. My special thanks go to DKI APCSS and the American Embassy of Myanmar for providing all the necessary requirements and taking care during my stay in Honolulu. I would like to put on record the gratitude I owe to the Ministry of Education and the University of Yangon for every single arrangement to visit APCSS.
By Professor Chaw Chaw Sein