The armed forces play the major role in Myanmar's politics and administration; senior members of the government are officers who govern under martial law.
Myanmar's armed forces totaled an estimated 444,000 in 2002 including the paramilitary people's militia and people's police force. The army, with 325,000 personnel, was organized in infantry battalions chiefly for internal security duties, mainly against the various insurgent groups that have challenged successive governments almost from the start of independence. The army was equipped with 100 main battle tanks. The navy had 10,000 members, and the air force 9,000. The navy's responsibilities related primarily to antismuggling and other coastal patrol duties operating 73 patrol and coastal combatants. The air force was also concerned mainly with internal security; it had 113 combat aircraft and 29 armed helicopters. Military expenditures were $3.9 billion in 1997–98 or 2.1% of GDP. Various rebel groups were estimated at perhaps 15,000 and operate inside and outside of northern Myanmar.