Junta Watch: Ministers Told to Save Fuel, Coup Leader’s Mentor Makes Rare Appearance, and More
By The Irrawaddy 12 March 2022
Former dictator seeks merit
Former military dictator Senior General Than Shwe, his wife Daw Kyaing Kyaing and their families offered meals to senior Buddhist monks who attended a meeting of the 47-member State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, the highest Buddhist authority in Myanmar, on March 8, junta-controlled newspapers reported.
It was the first official news of the 89-year-old former dictator this year. His activities have barely appeared in state-run newspapers since he stepped down as military chief and handpicked Min Aung Hlaing as his successor in 2011.
Since Min Aung Hlaing’s coup in February last year, the former military dictator has appeared in junta-controlled newspapers twice—the first time was in November last year when he also offered meals to monks of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee.
In stark contrast to these offerings, the previous military regime carried out a brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks in 2007 under his leadership, resulting in a mass anti-regime protest movement known as the Saffron Revolution.
Min Aung Hlaing reportedly notified his predecessor ahead of his planned coup last year. Than Shwe gave silent assent, but urged Min Aung Hlaing to exercise restraint.
Fuel cuts await junta-appointed ministers
Amid fuel price hikes in Myanmar, deputy coup leader Soe Win told cabinet members during a budget meeting for fiscal year 2022-23 on March 4 that their fuel entitlements would be cut as of April.
The move is part of an economization drive and will affect Union-level and subnational ministers, he said. Before the coup, fuel prices were around 600 kyats per liter, but they are over 2,300 kyats now. Transportation costs have increased as a result of high fuel prices, and food prices have subsequently soared. Taxi drivers are also having a hard time. Businesses that rely on electricity are also struggling as power outages continue to disrupt lives across Myanmar.
Union-level and subnational authorities such as the president, vice-president, Union ministers, Union Election Commission chairman, Union Attorney-General, and region and state chief ministers are entitled to four to six vehicles plus 60 gallons of gasoline per vehicle per month.
Soe Win did not mention how much would be cut from their monthly fuel allowances, but preached that it is necessary to limit spending of US dollars on fuel imports.
Min Aung Hlaing never tires of chiding NLD
After disappearing from the public eye for more than a week, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing re-appeared on March 9, speaking to officers at the National Defense College via videoconferencing. He opened his speech by taking a swipe at the National League for Democracy, whose government he ousted in a coup in February last year.
Min Aung Hlaing normally attends such events in person, and it is unusual for him to speak via videoconferencing.
His face looked gaunt in the video, further fueling rumors that he has COVID-19. But he was full of energy when he repeated his narrative of how the NLD rigged the vote in the 2020 general elections and how badly the national economy declined under the NLD.
Min Aung Hlaing has put almost the entire cabinet of the NLD government, including President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in jail. And while he has been critical of the NLD’s performance, his own administrative competence is highly questionable. One year after his coup, Myanmar’s economy has shrunk significantly and its people are going through a period of prolonged crisis, facing unprecedentedly high food prices, job scarcity, and daily blackouts and water shortages, not to mention atrocities committed by junta soldiers.
Junta blames PDFs for nationwide power outages
Military coup leader Min Aung Hlaing speaks to NDC officer instructors and officer trainees via videoconferecing
Instead of telling the public how the junta plans to address the power failures that have struck across Myanmar including in major cities like Yangon, an editorial published in junta-controlled mouthpiece Myawady Daily blamed the People’s Defense Force (PDF) for the outages.
The regime said the national grid has shrunk by 220 megawatts (MW) because a number of power lines have been blown up. That represents just one-fifteenth of the daytime national demand of 3,400 MW per day, while the regime can only generate 2.2 gigawatts (GW) per day at present. It is obvious that the regime is attempting to cover up its own failings by shifting the blame onto the PDFs. The regime’s incompetence was further highlighted by the fact that it has not been able to repair power lines that were blown up months ago.
The electricity ministry last week also said it would only be able to supply 873 MW per day from March 12 to 18, and warned people to expect 24-hour blackouts. The prospect of longer blackouts is already depressing people across the country.
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