Ex-Myanmar Military Officers to Head Press and Literary Bodies

By The Irrawaddy 25 May 2022

In what is believed to be another step to choke the already suffocated media, Myanmar’s military regime has appointed two former military officers to lead the Myanmar Press Council in addition to their oversight over the Myanmar Press Council.

The press council will be chaired by former lieutenant colonel U Ohn Maung and the vice-chairman will be former lieutenant colonel U Myo Tun. Both men became the chairman and vice-chairman of the writers association in November.

U Ohn Maung, a poet who goes by the pen name Myinmu Maung Naing Moe, won several national poetry awards under previous military regimes.

U Myo Tun, a poet who uses the names Maung Sein Naung Lewe, worked for the Directorate of Public Relations and Psychological Warfare at the Defense Ministry. Their public profile is low.

The 11-member central executive committee of the writers association is dominated by former military officers and those close to the military. A writer, who asked for anonymity, said: “The two are from the military since the very beginning. They will not help develop literature.”

Certain freedoms that journalists and writers enjoyed for nearly 10 years have ended with the February 2021 coup. In November last year, the press council was reformed under regime control. The writers association followed nearly six months later.

The new council members, who took an oath before junta leader Min Aung Hlaing in November, did not speak up for journalists detained by the regime and issued statements in support of the regime.

Over the past six months, U Ohn Maung has written propaganda poems in junta newspapers. The 70-year-old is known to have absolute loyalty to the military and has organized literary talks, poster exhibitions, competitions and writing contests within battalions.

He reportedly has close ties with former information minister and ex-brigadier general Kyaw Hsan, former defence minister and ex-lieutenant general Wai Lwin, former police chief and current immigration minister U Khin Yi and the current Union Government’s Office minister U Chit Naing, who is a well-known military writer.

Both men are controversial recipients of national literary awards.