His name was scrawled on coffins at mock funerals across the country. People shouted wishes for his death. Myanmar’s poker-faced coup leader stared out from burning pictures.
This is how Myanmar people marked the birthday of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who turned 65 on Saturday. In other words, it was how they vented their simmering hatred of him for his seizure of power from the country’s democratically elected government five months ago and his forces’ lethal response to the popular protests against him.
Exactly two weeks ago on June 19, Myanmar people at home and abroad marked the 76th birthday of their elected leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained by Min Aung Hlaing since the coup.
The junta chief must be envious of the celebrations held at that time, which were in stark contrast to what Min Aung Hlaing witnessed on Saturday. For the State Counselor’s birthday, smiles and flowers were everywhere. People prayed for her good health and speedy release. Myanmar’s favorite social media, Facebook, was flooded with pictures of people wearing or holding flowers to show solidarity with their leader, who is known for wearing flowers. One user wrote: “Come you Back, Mom…Revolutionary flowers are now in bloom.”
When she learned about it, she thanked the people for her birthday celebration and also wished good health to the people, according to one of her lawyers.
On Saturday, activists in Yangon left free fans at bus stops as part of a mock funeral for the coup maker. It is a common practice to distribute fans at Buddhist funerals. Young people staged flash mob protests, vowing to take revenge for his brutality toward protesters.
In Mandalay, people set coffins bearing his name, along with pictures of him, on fire in the streets, cursing him and calling for his speedy death. Due to the misery he has brought to the country since the coup, people said he should have been stillborn. He is so despised that some people went even further, urinating on pictures of him.
On Facebook, people posted pictures of themselves holding placards with their “birthday wishes” for Min Aung Hlaing. One sign read: “May you die in haste!”
In Ayeyarwady Region, villagers prayed “May your birthday be your death day!”
For Min Aung Hlaing and his wife Daw Kyu Kyu Hla, both known for their superstitious beliefs, the people’s reaction on Saturday must surely make them quite uncomfortable.
Until this year, few in the country would have had any interest in his birthday. Were it not for the coup and his deadly response to the protesters, there would have been no mock funerals for him on Saturday. His predecessor as dictator, Than Shwe, was the subject of similar protests, but largely by activists in exile and not in the sort of nationwide denunciation that Min Aung Hlaing is facing today.
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