Under Whose Command? Myanmar Army Chain of Command and Allegations of Abuse

Today we launched a new report “Under Whose Command?” which reveals for the first time, the chain of command of the Myanmar Army over twelve years and the connections from senior army commanders to hundreds of alleged human rights abuses during that twelve year period.

The top-level findings of this research are stark: 

  • 64% (51 of the 79) senior army commanders that have served between 30 March 2011 and 30 March 2023 have had alleged disappearances, killings, rape or instances of torture committed by units under their command.
  • 54% (28 of 51) of these commanders were promoted in rank after at least one alleged disappearance, killing, rape or instance of torture was committed by units under their command. The others could not be promoted in rank further (9), promotions could not be determined (11), or may be promoted in the future (3).
  • In many areas of the country, almost every single person who ever held command had disappearances, killings, rape or instances of torture allegedly committed by units under their command.

Al Jazeera and Associated Press have both written about the report and its place in the wider process for international accountability.

Establishing the chain of command is one of the key elements in determining who should be held accountable for war crimes or crimes against humanity. We hope it can be used to support efforts to deliver accountability for alleged crimes against humanity, war crimes committed by the Myanmar Army, and justice for those that have suffered at their hands.

Our research covers the army from 30 March 2011, when Min Aung Hlaing became Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Myanmar, otherwise known as the Tatmadaw, to 30 March 2023. As we do with all countries, we mapped the entire branch of the security forces, in this case the entire Myanmar Army. This involved tracking the chain of command, locations and areas of operations of hundreds of units over those twelve years – and then analyzing how allegations of abuse mapped on to that structure.

The report includes a Data Explorer where the careers of all of the commanders can be explored in detail. Users can see the source of every allegation as well as the research which builds the entire chain of command for each commander and alleged violation. 

We will explore other parts of our research on Myanmar in the coming weeks. Finally, we will be publishing all of our Myanmar research to WhoWasInCommand to support current and future documentation and accountability efforts.