Junta Watch: The Boss Toasts His Henchmen, an Unwanted ‘Guest’ Arrives and More

By The Irrawaddy 8 January 2022

Regime member sends New Year’s ‘wishes’ to NUG

SAC member and New National Democracy Party chairman U Thein Nyunt

In a New Year’s message, U Thein Nyunt, a member of the State Administration Council (SAC)— the governing body of the military regime—wished death and destruction upon the parallel National Unity Government (NUG) as well as its legislative body, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), and its armed wing, the People’s Defense Force (PDF).

“Myanmar is going through a war for the cause of ‘nationalism’ between patriots and those under foreign influence. My wish is that the foreign invaders and traitors will be totally defeated in the New Year,” the turncoat wrote in his New Year’s greetings published in the junta-controlled newspapers.

U Thein Nyunt was previously a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD)’s Central Executive Committee. When the NLD boycotted the 2010 general election, he left the party and co-founded a new one, the National Democratic Force. He later resigned from the party and ran as an independent in the 2010 poll, winning a seat in the Lower House. He later founded the New National Democracy Party (NNDP). He contested the 2015 poll as the NNDP chair, but lost the race to the NLD.

He has since allied himself with the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and spent the years prior to the coup finding fault with the NLD government. In the run-up to the 2020 election, he made statements encouraging a military coup. He again suffered defeat in the 2020 vote, but became a member of the SAC following the takeover. He has always tried to curry favor with Min Aung Hlaing, seconding whatever he says at regime meetings.

Sending good tidings with one hand, dealing death with the other

Myanmar refugees prepare to cross the Thaung Yin River into Thailand after fleeing the junta’s shelling of Lay Kay Kaw and surrounding areas on Dec. 19, 2021.

On Karen New Year’s Day, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing wished the Karen people well. It was rank hypocrisy—the general ordered airstrikes on Karen villages last month, bringing devastation to the lives of thousands.

Since Dec. 15, Myanmar’s military has carried out ground and aerial attacks on Lay Kay Kaw and surrounding areas in Karen State’s Myawaddy Township near the Thai border, claiming that PDF fighters were taking shelter there. The attacks have forced more than 10,000 locals from their homes and across the border into Thailand.

Only the regime’s media acknowledged Karen New Year’s Day with any energy. The occasion went unmarked even in relatively peaceful Yangon and Ayeyarwady regions, which are home to large Karen populations.

Min Aung Hlaing eyes electoral ‘reform’ to maintain grip on power

In his message on Myanmar’s 74th annual Independence Day, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing articulated the merits of the proportional representation (PR) electoral system, which he said would allow all-inclusive and wide representation in Myanmar.

In the first-past-the-post system that has been practiced to date in Myanmar, candidates who win a majority of votes in their constituencies are elected lawmakers. Under the PR system, parties receive parliamentary seats proportional to the percentage of votes they win in an election. Calls by the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party and its allied parties to switch to PR have become louder since last March, one month after the coup.

Obviously, Min Aung Hlaing is preaching the advantages of PR not because of its benefits for Myanmar, but because it would benefit the military and himself personally.

With the military-drafted constitution guaranteeing 25 percent of seats in the legislature for Myanmar’s military, its proxy USDP and allied parties only need to secure an additional 26 percent of total seats to form the government. However, after they failed to do so in both the 2015 and 2020 elections, they knew they would never be able to take control of the parliament and the government unless PR is introduced.

The military regime, after annulling the results of the 2020 general election in July, said it would hold a new election in August 2023, but to Myanmar people, that is nothing more than a tall story.

Hun Sen: Myanmar’s Unwelcome Visitor

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and regime-appointed Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in Naypyitaw after the prime minister’s arrival on Jan. 7.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen arrived in Naypyitaw  on the morning of Jan. 7 on a visit opposed by Myanmar’s people, who fear it will lend legitimacy to coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, given that Cambodia currently holds the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member. The dictatorial Khmer ruler is the first foreign leader to visit the head of the Myanmar junta since the military seized power in February last year.

Junta leader honors his deputy and regime supporters

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing awards military gallantry and excellent performance medals and certificates to an officer. / Cncds

To mark Myanmar’s Independence Day on Jan. 4, Min Aung Hlaing conferred titles on military officials including his deputy, Vice Senior General Soe Win, and military supporters including well-known Buddhist monks.

The coup leader, who himself had the title Maha Thray Sithu bestowed on him by his military seniors earlier in his career, conferred the title Thray Sithu on his deputy, and other titles on various military officials who are in one way or another involved in the ongoing brutal crackdown on anti-regime protesters and killings of civilians.

Among the other title recipients were Major Naing Bo Bo, who rammed a vehicle into anti-regime protesters in Yangon’s Kyimyindaing in December, and well-known Buddhist monks Ashin Chekinda and U Tilawkar Biwonsa. The latter is the chief monk of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, an ultranationalist group known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha.

The honorary orders are traditionally awarded to individuals who have done great work for the country. This year, however, the awards went to supporters of Min Aung Hlaing.

Other recipients included Dr. Aung Kyaw Win, the husband of the regime’s Social Welfare Minister Daw Thet Thet Khaing, and U Aung Min Kyaw Thu, the vice chairman of pro-military nationalist group the Young Men’s Buddhist Association. Posthumous honors were conferred on ward administrators and regime employees who were killed for allegedly being military informants.

Junta admits it did not expect armed resistance from civilians

Military spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun during a press conference. / The Irrawaddy

Regime spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun admitted in an interview with the BBC on Dec. 5 that the military had not expected armed resistance from civilians.

“Tatmadaw is facing challenges. The main challenge is mine attacks and sneak attacks by resistance fighters disguised as civilians,” Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun added.

Myanmar civilians initially responded to the coup with peaceful demands that democracy be restored in the country. However, after their protest columns were hit by live bullets and grenades and many of their comrades shot dead in late February and March, they came to realize that taking up arms was the only answer if they were to defeat the regime.

Since then, hundreds of resistance groups known collectively as the PDF have sprung up across the country, fighting the regime in both urban and rural areas of Myanmar.

In the cities, junta soldiers who had shown no mercy for unarmed protesters have tasted fear. Fatal guerrilla attacks by resistance fighters have forced junta soldiers to duck behind sandbags and barbed wire mesh fences.

Even as the regime has branded the resistance fighters as terrorists and launched a series of manhunts across the country, everyone can see that attacks on regime targets have only increased in Yangon and elsewhere.

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