Burma

Myanmar Military-Linked Trio Claim to Be on Shadow Govt’s ‘Hit List’

By The Irrawaddy 15 November 2021

Three people known for their proximity to the Myanmar military and involved in the previous military proxy government’s and the current regime’s peace process have claimed they are on a “hit list” put out by Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG) and its armed wing, the People’s Defense Force (PDF), according to a complaint one of them sent to international embassies.

Viewed by The Irrawaddy, the aim of the letter is basically to alert diplomats that the trio face death threats from the NUG and PDF, and to urge them to take appropriate action against the organizations. The letter states that “businessmen, politicians, actors/artists/performers who they think are supporting or working with the military regime” were also under threat.

“I would like to draw your attention to the secret death threat that the NUG/PDF has issued to assassinate U Hla Maung Shwe, Dr. Min Zaw Oo (MIPS) and myself,” writes U Aung Naing Oo, adding that “the targeted killings are against all the norms and values you hold dearly.”

The NUG was formed by elected lawmakers from the ousted National League for Democracy government and their ethnic allies in the wake of the coup in February to challenge the regime’s legitimacy. It has formed PDFs to topple the junta and defend the people against its troops’ brutality. Myanmar today has hundreds of locally formed civilian forces across the country; some are under the control of the NUG while others are not. Their activities range from deadly hit-and-run attacks to planting bombs at military targets to gunning down regime-appointed officials and collaborators and ambushing junta troops. The regime has branded them as terrorist groups.

The NUG rejected the accusation last Monday. Its spokesperson Dr. Sasa said they did not have such a hit list, adding that “the NUG does not, has not, and will not engage in the same barbarity and sadism as the military.”

According to the letter, the complaint would be sent to “government officials, including those from the State Department, Brussels, Canberra, London and elsewhere” through their contacts, adding they would also be reaching out to ethnic armed organizations that have assisted the NUG/PDF.

Imaginary Hit List?

The letter’s author doesn’t provide solid evidence for the claims to be on a hit list. Moreover, he doesn’t say whether each of the three directly received a threat, or confirm the existence of the list. The author only says he got a call on Nov. 6 from “a highly reliable source” who has a friend in the NUG/PDF, warning him about the threat against the trio.

While saying the NUG/PDF has carried out targeted killings mostly of unarmed civilians on the mere suspicion of working or spying for the military junta, the author said now they were stepping up their game and have included the trio and many others on the priority hit list.

“The threat is real, and we are greatly concerned,” U Aung Naing Oo wrote.

However, Dr. Tu Hkawng, who heads the NUG’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC), wondered why the trio didn’t raise the issue first with the NUG if they took the threat seriously, as they have some close friends in the NUG leadership.

“They can contact them any time. Instead, they secretly sent a complaint letter to embassies. It seems dishonest to me. We really don’t have a list; it’s not even been discussed,” he told The Irrawaddy.

In the letter, U Aung Naing Oo implored the diplomats and others to take appropriate action against “the excesses of the NUG/PDF”, saying “I believe that you have both moral and political authority to put a stop to the NUG/PDF becoming the MONSTER they are fighting against.”

“We take this threat against me, my colleagues, and others who have not taken sides in this current conflict extremely seriously, given the number of unarmed civilians the NUG/PDF has killed over the past few months,” he said.

He said the trio have been involved in the Myanmar peace process and stressed that “different notions of conflict resolution in Myanmar does not mean that we support or work for the military,” adding that they denounce violence of all kinds by anyone, not only the military but also any other groups in Myanmar.

“We want to get rid of the military just like anyone else in Myanmar,” he added.

Who They Are

Despite professing anti-military sentiment in the letter, the trio is widely regarded as having cozy relations with the military. They have all been openly criticized along with some Western-funded local peace think tanks for not speaking out against the military takeover and especially the atrocities that have followed, saying only that the coup was not a good thing. This is quite a contrast to their former selves, who were quite critical of every move the ousted National League for Democracy government made when it was in power.

Describing himself as a democracy and freedom activist who “has not stopped fighting for peace and democracy in Myanmar,” U Aung Naing Oo was a member of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), a student rebel group born out of the 1988 pro-democracy movement.

Later, he worked for the military proxy U Thein Sein government on peace negotiations with Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups under the supervision of ex-Major General Min Aung. To make it happen—with full blessings from Thein Sein—they founded the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), a government-affiliated, Western-funded NGO where everyone, most of them anti-Suu Kyi and NLD, had a good time enjoying a cash bonanza out of the as-yet-unfinished peace process. The key achievement for them was the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. One of the key members of the negotiation committee at the time was Khin Yi, who is now the immigration minister in the regime’s cabinet.

A former ABSDF and former democracy activist, Dr. Min Zaw Oo has worked at the MPC along with U Aung Naing Oo and is an adviser to the military under the hybrid civil-military government. He was also an adviser to the peace process under the NLD government from 2016 to January 2021, while he is also director of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security.

U Hla Maung Shwe (third from left); former general-turned-minister U Aung Min (center), U Aung Naing Oo (third from right) and Salai Ngun Cung Lian (right) at the 1st Union Peace Conference in January 2016 in Naypyitaw. / Aung Naing Oo

U Hla Maung Shwe was a one-time NLD member. After his arrest for his affiliation with the party in the early 1990s, he looked for greener pastures; he first became a businessman and then helped form the pro-military think tank Egrass, which advocated for the military’s role in politics and supported the previous military regime’s election in the 2010 vote, which the NLD and ethnic political parties boycotted. He then landed at the MPC as a peace adviser along with U Aung Naing Oo and Dr. Min Zaw Oo under the U Thein Sein government. Now he is a member of the junta’s newly formed peace committee.

Hla Maung Shwe is not alone in joining the junta from the MPC. Another member of the MPC and the trio’s close friend and colleague, Salai (Andrew) Ngun Cung Lian, is among the advisers for the current military regime. According to reliable sources, not only these two but some more members of the MPC have secretly or unofficially been working for the junta since its coup on Feb. 1.

The trio said “no comment” when The Irrawaddy asked them about the death threats.

One observer noted that those individuals “are over-dramatic or just want to distort  the people’s movement against military rule” with their claims to be “greatly concerned” over the “imaginary” list.

Another political analyst who has known them for years rejected the hit list assertion, pointing out the alleged military involvement in a series of political assassinations in Myanmar since independence to as recently as that of NLD legal adviser U Ko Ni in 2017.

“They speak like the regime. They are now leaning heavily on the miltairy,” he said.

The NUG said the rumor is meant to discredit the people’s struggle for freedom and democracy, adding that it doesn’t tolerate a “victory at all costs” mentality.

Its spokesman Dr. Sasa said, “Everyone needs to understand that spreading and validating knowingly false gossip such as this not only muddies the political waters, but it disrespects the thousands of Myanmar people who have taken up the struggle for freedom and democracy.”

As the complaint letter of the hit list began to draw people’s attention, veteran student leader Ma Nilar Thein wrote on her Facebook account:

“You failed to stand with people when the regime brutalized them. Now, haunted by the stance, you are sending letters, complaining your life is in danger. No one will waste bullets on those whose history has already died for the road they took with their own self.”

Ma Nilar Thein is the wife of a veteran student leader Ko Jimmy, who has now been detained by the regime last month. He was accused of being the leader of Operation Moonlight, a local PDF active in Yangon.


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