Analysis

Pseudonymous Screed Attacking ASEAN Bears Prominent Junta Loyalist’s Stamp

By The Irrawaddy 18 October 2022

A former admiral’s son who used a UNESCO-funded regional media forum to attack Myanmar’s democracy movement is believed to have penned an article published pseudonymously in pro-regime media urging the country’s junta to be more assertive in dealing with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the West, while calling China, Russia and India “very good allies.”

Appearing in the Friday edition of the Myanmar junta’s English mouthpiece The Global New Light of Myanmar, “Myanmar and ASEAN”, credited simply to “U AC”, is basically an attack on the regional grouping. It says the bloc is doing as much as possible to embarrass the Myanmar regime while some member states are “contributing significantly to the instability and insecurity in Myanmar” and that ASEAN seems to be “acting as a lapdog for the US.”

“The country must move from a position of defence to a more offensive position. Because there are some people out there, who would bully us and talk bad about us, regardless of how well we do and how good our intentions are,” the author claims.

The publication of the article comes at a time when the relationship between the junta and the 10-member bloc, of which Myanmar is a member, has turned sour. ASEAN has barred the junta leadership from at least five meetings, including summits, since last year due to the regime’s failure to honor the group’s peace plan for the country, which has been ravaged by conflicts sparked by the military coup last year.

The article states that the current relationship between ASEAN and Myanmar seems to be based on the fundamental belief that the Myanmar military is good for nothing, ruthless and killing innocents, and that the current “government” is doing nothing good for the country.

It continues that the West and ASEAN are indirectly supporting the killing of innocent people and targeted assassinations in Myanmar, referring to anti-regime resistance groups’ attacks on junta targets.

Normally, whenever it is sidelined by ASEAN, the regime issues statements denouncing the bloc’s decision to exclude it.

But the opinion piece goes further by saying that “the time to appease everyone all over the world is over. We have to do what is right for Myanmar.”

It’s not clear whether the author is suggesting that Myanmar should quit ASEAN or the other way round. However, he describes Russia, China and India as “three very good allies” and encourages more engagement with them.

As the piece appears in the junta’s mouthpiece paper, it’s safe to say that the opinion stated in the story reflects the regime’s jittery view on ASEAN.

So who is behind the nom guerre U AC?

It is likely that the letters stand for a Myanmar name spelt in English. It could be U Aye Cho or U Aung Chan or U Aye Chan, among other names.

However, the excessive use of exclamation marks, sloppy arguments, and raising of unnecessary questions in the story make it possible to make an educated guess that the person behind the pen name U AC is Aye Chan, who joined last month’s UNESCO-funded Dili Dialogue Forum 2022 as a member of the regime’s press council to attack Myanmar’s democracy movement and independent journalists while defending the military’s 2021 coup. He is the son of ex-admiral and former minister Soe Thane, who in 2012 helped Myanmar’s then quasi-civilian administration fool the world into believing that the country’s military dictatorship was at an end, and is now a pro-regime hardliner.

U Soe Thane

Nobody familiar with Aye Chan’s presentation on Myanmar media at the Dili forum would argue that Aye Chan and U AC aren’t one and the same. Evidence can be found in shared sound bites such as “more than 90 percent of NLD [National League for Democracy] ministers are now in jail for corruption”, the duplicated coinage “NNCP”—created from the first letters of National Unity Government (or NUG, Myanmar’s shadow civilian government), NLD, CRPH (the NUG’s parliamentary wing) and PDF (its armed wing)—and the repeated accusation of vote-rigging against the NLD, a major feature of Aye Chan’s Dili presentation.

Any lingering doubts will be dispelled once you have read this story, which attempts to discredit Myanmar’s ongoing anti-junta movement under the name Aye Chan. It bears some striking similarities to the recent story on ASEAN, right down to the rhythm of its sentences and style of presenting information, not to mention its staunch defense of last year’s military takeover. Another similarity between U AC and Aye Chan is their penchant for peppering articles with quotations from famous figures like Bill Gates, Lee Kuan Yew and even Sun Tzu to support their lame arguments.

Demonstrating loyalty to the junta, in the story, U AC blasts Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia as ASEAN’s “anti-Myanmar” wing, pointing to Singapore’s rejection of the regime; Malaysia’s meeting with representatives of the NUG, which the regime has branded a terrorist group; and Indonesia’s parliament for seeking to put the regime on trial. He also laments ASEAN’s serial exclusions of the regime leadership from group summits. The US, according to U AC, continues to push ASEAN, especially Singapore, to prevent the Myanmar “government” from accessing state funds from its banks, with the sole objective, the author writes, of bringing the regime down.

It’s noteworthy that the story appeared ahead of the ASEAN summit next month. With the bloc’s envoy to Myanmar having canceled his third trip to the country due the lack of positive engagement from Naypyitaw, the regime has been barred from the upcoming summit—another blow for the legitimacy-craving junta.

In that context, “Myanmar and ASEAN” by U AC can be viewed as nothing but a desperate howl from a pro-junta stooge looking to badmouth the regional grouping for its repeated exclusions of the junta leadership.

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