Inflammatory Spokesman Zaw Htay Promoted Within President’s Office Leadership

By Moe Myint 7 April 2016

RANGOON – Former President Thein Sein’s spokesperson Zaw Htay, better known by his Facebook account Hmuu Zaw, will serve another term in the President’s Office but in the higher position of deputy director general, he said at a press conference in Naypyidaw on Wednesday.

His critics describe him as a strong advocate of former head of state Thein Sein, under whom held a directorial role within the President’s Office. Hmuu Zaw used his Facebook account to oppose National League for Democracy (NLD) supporters and he occasionally contributed articles to local media outlets that bolstered the ex-president and the Burma Army.

Hmuu Zaw’s reappointment—and promotion—in the new NLD-dominated government has become a hot topic online, with people criticizing his conduct over the past three years; particularly, inflammatory statements targeted at the Rohingya, a religious minority group whom the last government declared were interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh.

When communal strife broke out between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Burma in 2012, Zaw Htay uploaded pictures—that he later deleted—that fueled tension between the two communities.

Myanmar Press Council (MPC) member Myint Kyaw said the media always noticed Hmuu Zaw because his actions went “beyond those of a bureaucrat” and “often expressed his political support of Thein Sein.”

On Jan. 30, when the former president made his final trip to the Irrawaddy Delta as the head of State, Zaw Htay posted photos with a teaser that read, “The president with a clean record for life has left a good record during his term as well.”

Myint Kyaw said Hmuu Zaw’s actions were those of a nationalist.

“His previous actions were totally incongruous with his position,” he said. “He posted nationalist sentiments that could have fomented civil unrest.

The MPC member suggested that the Burmese government follow the lead of other international organizations that have standards for how their employees are permitted to behave online. He encouraged strict rules as to how government employees could use their social media accounts and warnings or punishments for employees who posted content that could negatively impact the government.

There are currently no rules on the books as to what government employees should or should not post online.