Rangoon Division Chief Minister Myint Swe—known as a hardliner under the former military regime—has reportedly denied involved in a violent crackdown on the monk-led “Saffron Revolution” in 2007, saying he was willing to be investigated and would even submit to the death penalty if found guilty of involvement.
“If you think I’m responsible, I am ready [to face justice],” Myint Swe reportedly told business people from the Myanmar Fisheries Federation in a meeting in Rangoon on Sunday, reports 7 Days News, a local journal. “To be frank, I am ready to be hanged [if there is a guilty verdict].”
According to 7 Days News, Myint Swe said he was in close contact with the then Gen Shwe Mann, the current Union Parliament speaker, who was his direct superior at the time of the pro-democracy uprising.
Myint Swe was a loyal supporter of Snr-Gen Than Shwe, Burma’s retired junta leader, during the days of military rule. He was a powerful commander in Rangoon Division, where only the regime’s most trusted generals were put in charge of guarding and controlling the former capital.
During the 2007 Saffron Revolution, Myint Swe led security operations in Rangoon. It is believed that he was directly involved in the subsequent violent crackdown on the pro-democracy protests, which received worldwide condemnation after dozens of people were killed by soldiers. His campaign to pacify the Buddhist monks, who led the demonstrations, by offering them cash donations and other incentives failed.
Prior to these events, Myint Swe was known for having carefully executed two high-profile operations in Rangoon: the arrest of Ne Win’s family members in 2002 after an alleged coup conspiracy was uncovered, and the arrest of then Military Intelligence chief and Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and intelligence units in 2004.
This week, the chief minister reportedly denied that he was involved in arresting Ne Win’s family members. The former dictator staged a coup in 1962 ruled Burma for decades until he died in 2002, while under house arrest in Rangoon.
“I didn’t arrest U Ne Win because I was in Moulmein at that time. I had no reason to arrest him. Neither did I arrest Gen Khin Nyunt,” he was quoted as saying by 7 Days News.
Myint Swe’s remarks coincided with the six-year anniversary of the Saffron Revolution which began in September 2007.
Despite his dramatic remarks, the Rangoon Division minister will probably lose little sleep over possible prosecution for his past actions. The military-drafted 2008 Constitution provides immunity for the actions of former junta members during military rule.
The Constitution’s Chapter 14, Article 445 provides no legal action can be taken against the State Peace and Development Council and State Peace and Development Council members, stating: “No proceeding shall be instituted against the said Councils or any member thereof or any member of the Government, in respect of any act done in the execution of their respective duties.”
Myint Swe, an ethnic Mon, was a graduate of the 15th intake of the Defense Services Academy in 1971. Fellow army officers who personally knew Myint Swe have told The Irrawaddy that he gained promotions as he was an obedient soldier and faithful to the armed forces.
He was brought to the War Office in Rangoon and in the late 1990s he began working directly under Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Vice-Snr-Gen Maung Aye.
Myint Swe was subsequently promoted the Southeast Region commander, before being called back to become head of Rangoon Division. Later he became head of the Bureau of Special Operations-5, a department that also oversees security affairs in Rangoon.
In 2009, Myint Swe was promoted to quartermaster-general of the armed forces and rumors circulated that he was Than Shwe’s choice to become the next commander-in-chief. Instead he became the chief minister for Rangoon Region after the 2012 general elections. Since early 2000s, Myint Swe has been taking care of Rangoon Division through several positions.