For the first time in more than half a century, a class of women military cadets has graduated from Burma’s Defense Services Academy.

The commander-in-chief of Burma’s armed forces, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, attended the graduation ceremony on Thursday at the parade grounds of the academy’s training school for army officers in Hmawbi, Rangoon Division.

In a speech before the 100 new officers, he said the day was marked by “renewed vigor” for the armed forces and the state, according to the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

Following Burma’s independence from the British, women were occasionally recruited to the military during the 1950s. But they were barred from joining the armed forces under the military regimes that controlled Burma from 1962 until 2011, when a nominally civilian government took power.

In October last year, state media announced that the Defense Services Academy would begin recruiting women who had graduated from university and fit specific requirements: They had to be single, between the ages of 25 and 30, at least 1.6 meters tall, and no heavier than 59 kilograms. It said successful candidates would not be called into combat roles, but would be offered commissioned posts.

Men can join the academy after 10th standard in high school, according to women’s rights activists, and they become captains after graduating, while women become second lieutenants, a lower rank.

Ninety-two of this year’s graduating women have been assigned to work in the office or units under the army chief, while five will work under the navy chief and three under the air force chief.

Min Aung Hlaing urged them to “participate in efforts for national unity and peace” and to “strive to become reliable junior officers,” the New Light of Myanmar reported.

Link: http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/first-time-50-years-burmas-military-welcomes-women-officers.html