Myanmar Coup Leader Tells Public to Keep Emotions in Check

By The Irrawaddy 9 February 2021

YANGON—The leader of Myanmar’s military coup, who has been denounced by protesters across the country for ousting the democratically elected government, on Monday lectured the public to be pragmatic and not to let their emotions get the better of them.

The military staged a takeover last week, claiming that the general election late last year that brought a landslide victory to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s then-ruling National League for Democracy was stolen, contrary to the assertions of local and international election observers. While seizing power, the military arrested the country’s elected leaders, President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a televised speech on Monday night—his first since the power grab last week—Senior General Min Aung Hlaing insisted that despite the armed forces’ repeated requests to settle the alleged electoral dispute, “authorities concerned failed to show responsibility and accountability.”

He said the military had found during its investigation that voter lists were riddled with errors. To back up this claim, the senior general painstakingly recited a list of numbers the military says back up its allegations: “11,943 ineligible voters under 18 years of age; 4,648,270 [over 4.6 million] voters without national scrutiny [identification] cards; and 18,356 centenarian voters.”

“These are pragmatic issues. It is advised to pragmatically follow the figures, rather than emotion, if we have a genuine desire for discipline-flourishing democracy and development of the country,” said the coup leader, who was visibly caked in heavy makeup.

His nearly 20-minute speech came amid a nationwide, days-long uprising in defiance of his coup. Shortly before he went on air, hundreds of thousands of people across the country had just ended their third straight day of protests against him. They unanimously called for the immediate release of the President and the State Counselor, and, of course, denounced him for his electoral fraud claims in call-and-response chants like, “What party did you vote for? NLD! What government should govern us? Only NLD!”

It’s hard to gauge how the general’s lecture was received, given its bad timing. By the time he went before the cameras at 8 p.m. on Monday, the majority of his intended audience were likely too exhausted from joining the day-long protests against him to tune in. What’s more, the general’s on-air time coincided with the Myanmar people’s new nightly ritual. Since the coup, they have been busy at 8 p.m. every night enthusiastically banging pots and pans to show their opposition to the takeover he orchestrated. Given the loud clattering that echoed through every neighborhood, it is doubtful the senior general’s message on Monday night was clearly heard.

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