Election 2020

Town Greets Myanmar Military Chief by Singing His Rival’s Praises

By The Irrawaddy 30 October 2020

YANGON—It was probably the last thing Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing expected—or wanted—to see.

But it happened.

During a trip upcountry to visit the town of Shwebo in Sagaing Region on Thursday, his convoy was welcomed by local people. However, to his embarrassment, the greetings that reached his ears were not shouts of “Long live the senior general!”

Instead, he was met with the throbbing rhythms of a campaign song of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). As his motorcade swished past the municipal market, dozens of local people lining the roadside could be heard singing the song in unison while waving the NLD’s flag, including a rousing rendition of the song’s chorus, which goes, “Let’s Vote for the NLD!”

A short video clip capturing the scene went viral on Myanmar’s favorite social media platform, Facebook, triggering a flood of praise for the townsfolk of Shwebo, who were hailed for the courageous and unusual way they chose to show their support for the NLD.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD have been trying to make good on the party’s vow to take the men in uniform out of the country’s politics by amending the military-drafted, undemocratic Constitution. The generals have resisted their efforts, branding the NLD’s approach to reform as unconstitutional. Seeing such a display of support for the party that has pledged to bring about the departure of the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) from the Parliament must have been a painful moment for the commander-in-chief.

Of course, the video has prompted curiosity from everyone who has watched it, eliciting comments such as, “How will the senior general react to this (sitting next to his wife in the car)?”

Even from behind the tinted windows of their vehicle, the military chief and his wife, Daw Kyu Kyu Hla, would have felt the pro-NLD vibes and could not have missed the ruling party’s flags being waved by the crowd—and been painfully aware that the enthusiastic support on display was not for them.

Coincidentally, the military chief was in town to meet with the officers and troops, and their families, at Shwebo Station under the Tatmadaw’s Northwestern Command. One of his missions for the day was to lecture them on how to vote on Nov. 8. The military-owned Myawady Daily quoted him as saying:

“It is essential to take the lessons experienced during the past two governments into consideration while choosing among candidates. As every country is striving for development, candidates who are capable of bringing about development for the region and country and correctly leading the country by maintaining good relations with the international community must be elected with prudence.”

However, given what he witnessed on Thursday, it must be quite evident to Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing whom the people living outside the barracks at Shwebo Station will be voting for on Nov. 8 when Myanmar will go to the polls.