Public Backlash, Sanctions Threat Put Myanmar Junta Appointees in Tight Spot

By The Irrawaddy 8 February 2021

The cabinet of Myanmar’s military junta comprises generals, ex-military officials and some members of its political proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Some of the new ministers were simply informed at the last minute of their appointments. At least one civilian reportedly declined to join: U Thaung Tin, the founder of KMD Computer Group, was offered the Transport and Communications portfolio but turned it down.

U Thaung Tin was one of the civilian ministers in then-President U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government, serving as deputy minister of communications and information technology.

Though he reportedly declined the invitation to join the current junta’s cabinet, U Thaung Tin’s name still appears among the members of the newly handpicked Union Election Commission (UEC). The military-appointed electoral body includes six members led by chairman U Thein Soe.

The new chairman is believed to be the former military judge advocate-general who oversaw the 2010 general election, which was widely condemned as a sham.

U Thaung Tin’s appointment to the new UEC has already met with blowback, with netizens urging a boycott of KMD. A name-and-shame campaign targeting supporters of the coup and members of the military’s governing body, the State Administrative Council, is rapidly picking up steam in Myanmar. Some ethnic politicians close to the military, and who were opposed to de facto national leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted government, are among those currently facing ridicule and boycotts on social media from an outraged public.

Western governments led by the US are soon expected to impose targeted sanctions on the coup makers and the junta’s ministers, key supporters and business associates.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration said the military’s overthrow of Myanmar’s civilian leadership met the legal definition of a “coup.” The official designation is significant because it restricts US aid to governments that have taken power by military means. The US is said to be preparing to impose sanctions in the near future.

Meanwhile, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and several ministers from the former NLD-led government remain under house arrest. Legal cases have been filed against her and the former president, and both face trials.

U Min Thu, a former union minister for the Office of the Union Government who is close to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was also approached to serve in the new administration but declined.

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