Junta Watch: Failed Propaganda, Stolen Words From an Ancient King and More

By The Irrawaddy 18 December 2021

Failed, clumsy propaganda on silent strike

A normally traffic-choked road in downtown Yangon is deserted during the silent strike, in stark contrast to the tens of thousands of people (at right) who took to the streets in the area to voice opposition to the regime during an earlier protest.

When Myanmar people took part in a silent strike against the military regime on Dec. 10, the junta apparently took the nationwide silent scream of opposition straight to heart. As the strike grabbed global headlines and was widely reported by international news agencies, the regime rushed to discredit the movement the same day.

Shamelessly, junta-controlled media falsely claimed that people stayed at home because the People’s Defense Force had threatened them with repercussions if they did not. The state broadcaster tried to cover up the strike by presenting footage of people at markets and on streets in its evening news programs. But no one knows when the footage was taken. And junta-controlled newspapers featured photos from the footage the following day. In their eagerness to smear the strike they appeared to forget that the strike was in effect from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., while some of the photos were obviously taken in the early morning and late evening. A counterstrike was also held in Yangon at around noon that day. Unfortunately, as people were staying at home, their pro-junta rally was barely noticed by anyone, except for some stray dogs, which were visibly annoyed by the noisy mobs disturbing their rare moment of peace and tranquility on the deserted roads of the city.

Stupid is as stupid does!

At a regime cabinet meeting on Dec. 13, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing stressed that detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint are free to meet their lawyers. Presumably, therefore, he assumes the duo’s lawyers have informed them of the latest political developments in the country—including the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG), its legislative body the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), and what the regime brands their “terrorist” activities—and that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has given the lawyers her views on them.

Min Aung Hlaing’s reference to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her lawyers came in the context of his call for his subordinates to step up the arrests of members of the People’s Defense Force (PDF), which the junta has portrayed as a terrorist group. Observers say Min Aung Hlaing’s intention is to drive a wedge between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who embraces the principle of nonviolence, and the CRPH, NUG and PDF. Apparently he naïvely believes that the PDF groups, which rely heavily on public support, will collapse if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi opposes their activities.

Given the unwavering civilian armed resistance against the regime in the country, it is clear that the people are determined to end the military dictatorship by any means. Suffice it to say Min Aung Hlaing is too stupid to understand that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has said “the NLD will survive as long as the people do,” dares not go against the people’s wishes.

Mass-produced doctors

Doctors and nurses stage a protest against the coup at Yangon General Hospital on Feb. 3, 2021. / The Irrawaddy

Myanmar coup leader Min Aung Hlaing is like a child with a Christmas wish list. He wishes to see Myanmar at the top among Southeast Asian nations in the next 10 years. Even as the commercial capital Yangon remains subject to frequent blackouts, he imagines running fleets of electric buses and a subway. Recently, he added his latest item to the list. The victim this time: Myanmar’s health sector!

At a meeting of his regime’s cabinet on Dec. 13, Min Aung Hlaing said students who achieve high scores in English, biology and chemistry on their matriculation examinations will be allowed to sit for the entrance exam to medical universities.

Providing the official reasoning for his plan, he complained that Myanmar is suffering because only some 10,000 out of the approximately 30,000 doctors who graduated from medical universities between 1995 and 2020 have joined the civil service to work in public hospitals. A more pressing reason, however, is obvious: He is engaged in nothing less than a helter-skelter dash to “mass-produce” doctors to work in the country’s health sector, which has been severely affected by the absence of striking healthcare professionals—including physicians, specialists, medical superintendents and nurses—who refuse to work under military rule. In the early days after the coup, the regime tried to fill the vacancies with military medics, but it didn’t work.

Admission to a medical university in Myanmar is a very competitive process and demands intensive study and high scores on the matriculation exam, among other things. So, Min Aung Hlaing’s downgrading of the entrance criteria is nothing less than a nightmare for the Myanmar medical community and the people.

In the footsteps of King Kyansittha? No way!

Vice Senior General Soe Win attends as meeting of the National-Level Social Protection Committee and delivers an address in Naypitaw on Dec. 14 / Cncds


King Kyansittha, who ruled in the 11th century during the Bagan Dynasty, has gone down as one of the most popular monarchs in Myanmar history for his social, economic and cultural reforms, and is remembered for his benevolence to his subjects. The following lines from a stone inscription at Shwe Zigon pagoda reflect his kindness:

“….With my right hand rice, with my left hand ornaments and apparel, I shall give to all my people. Like children resting in their mother’s bosom, so shall I keep watch over them and help them.”

But the nobility of those words was shattered when the coup leader’s deputy, Vice Senior General Soe Win, said they would serve as the initial policy of the National Committee on Social Protection, while addressing a meeting of the newly formed body on Dec. 14. The identity of the speaker matters in this case. Soe Win is the second-most-powerful man in the regime, which has killed more than 1,300 anti-coup protesters over the past 10 months and upended the lives of so many others. In trying to appropriate some of the nobility of the ancient monarch for the regime, the general has only made a mockery of King Kyansittha’s words.

Under Kyansittha’s reign, Myanmar enjoyed peace and prosperity and the people lived fulfilling lives. In the 10 months since the coup, however, the current regime has given the people not food and clothing, but only bullets and artillery shells, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands before the eyes of the international community. At the same time, its leaders are shameless enough to portray themselves as altruists.

Myanmar’s notorious Air Force turns 74

Coup leader Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing attends the 74th founding anniversary of the Myanmar Air Force and commissioning of airplanes and helicopters in Meiktila on Dec. 15 / Cncds

The Myanmar Air Force, which has long been infamous for conducting air strikes on ethnic revolutionary armed groups, and more recently for using gunships to attack civilian resistance groups in northwestern Myanmar, turned 74 on Wednesday. At least 15 planes including fighter jets and cargo and training aircraft were deployed at an event to mark the anniversary. As usual, Min Aung Hlaing was front and center, boasting to the attendees that “high-cost aircraft have been procured to ensure Myanmar’s Air Force can keep pace with regional countries.”

Commissioning of the new aircraft coincided with the regime’s launch of large-scale air strikes against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army in Shan State’s Kokang. The junta has also begun conducting aerial attacks and air-dropping soldiers in Sagaing Region, after ambushes using landmines made reinforcing troops by road impossible. No doubt the new aircraft will be used for that purpose. As Min Aung Hlaing’s intention in procuring the aircraft is nothing less than to kill anti-coup activists from the air, the Myanmar Air Force will indeed be ranked at the top, not only in the region but also in the world—not in terms of combat capability, but in terms of cruelty.

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