YANGON — Former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party members, veterans and nationalists joined a rally in support of the military in Yangon on Sunday.
They denounced a former student leader who recently drew the ire of the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, over the depiction of the institution in a “peace-building” performance he organized.
Officially billed as the “Rally Against Those Sowing Discord Between the Military and the People,” the event drew several thousand people. Among them were Buddhist nationalists, including monks who are the subject of arrest warrants for their participation in communal rioting last year as well as for staging an anti-government sit-in in Yangon. Former dictator Ne Win’s grandson Aye Ne Win, former USDP lawmaker U Hla Swe and other nationalists also attended.
An organizer told the media the event was intended to show solidarity with the military after the recent peace-building performance, which critics felt damaged the military’s image. He was referring to an activity late last month intended to foster support for the government-sponsored 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference.
During the event, to call attention to the lack of peace in the country, performers
wearing fatigues pointed guns at people dressed as civilians while children begged the soldiers for mercy.
Addressing the rally on Sunday, former USDP lawmaker U Hla Swe mocked Ko Min Ko Naing’s personal appearance and his reported academic failures as a youth, calling the leader of the 88 Generation Students Group “a buck-toothed illiterate.”
“He once denied that it was the military that won Myanmar’s independence. This buck-toothed dimwit is an illiterate. Someone told me he failed the eighth grade twice before finally getting through,” he told the crowd. Ko Min Ko Naing once said in a lecture that Aung San, viewed as the father of Myanmar’s independence, went to England in January 1947 as a civilian, not as a general, to sign an agreement with British Prime Minister Clement Atlee declaring that Burma would be independent within a year.
Ko Min Ko Naing was not available for comment.
The military condemned the performance and demanded an apology. The student leader has taken full responsibility for the performance. He has not apologized.