Junta Watch

Junta Watch: A Softer Tone to Woo Teachers Back; Harsh Words for the UN, and More

By The Irrawaddy 21 May 2022

Regime struggles to open schools

Seriously short of experienced teachers and with schools set to open next month, the military regime, which has dismissed and issued arrest warrants for striking teachers, has been attempting to coax strikers to return to work.

The invitation, which has been published daily in the junta’s newspapers since May 17, says anyone who has not committed a serious crime can return to work, with their absence to date being treated as unpaid leave.

Nearly 80 percent of Myanmar’s 400,000 teachers joined the Civil Disobedience Movement in opposition to the military coup last year, according to the Education Ministry of the civilian National Unity Government.

Last year, as Min Aung Hlaing reopened schools after more than a year of closure due to the COVID-19 outbreak, his regime trained new recruits to fill the vacancies left by striking teachers. But with the junta chief now inviting striking teachers to come back, it is obvious that his replacement scheme has failed. When classes reopened last year, the majority of parents refused to send their children to school, in a show of opposition to the military regime.

At the same time, the NUG is providing teacher training taught by striking professors and teachers. The NUG has opened schools in some places under its control, and is offering online classes in others.

In response to the junta’s invitation, striking education staff have called for a continued boycott of education under military rule.

Junta chief’s adviser slams UN

SAC adviser Daw Yin Yin Nwe

The May 17 issues of the junta’s newspapers featured a lengthy article critical of the UN written by former UN employee Daw Yin Yin Nwe, who is now an adviser to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing.

The article entitled “Four basic facts about the UN that Myanmar people should know while international community including the US has attached greater importance to their relations with the NUG” argues that the UN unfairly singled out Myanmar’s military and military government for criticism despite the fact that coups occur in other countries.

According to Daw Yin Yin Nwe, the UN has failed to learn the lessons from the past that sanctions can only impoverish the Myanmar people and will not help to bring down the military government. Though there are many ongoing human rights violations and dictatorships in various countries, the UN is only putting Myanmar under the spotlight, she says.

She goes on to argue that there will be more losses than gains for the UN if it does not recognize the current military government. Foreign and local staff of UN agencies in Myanmar will suffer if the agreements between the UN and Myanmar expire and the current government does not want to extend them. “UN assistance is not irreplaceable,” she wrote.

The 70-year-old is the daughter-in-law of late military dictator U Ne Win, and was an education adviser to former President U Thein Sein.

Trained as a geologist, she worked with UNICEF from 1991 to 2011. In August 2012 she was appointed a member of a Commission of Inquiry investigating communal violence in Rakhine State that year. As an adviser to the military regime, she has often written pro-junta articles in regime newspapers.

Mouthpiece exalts Myanmar-China ties

Myanmar junta Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin (left) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in April 2022 / MOFA

The regime has experienced a number of international setbacks of late, including decisions by both Britain and Australia to downgrade their diplomatic relations with Naypyitaw, as well as informal meetings between civilian National Unity Government Foreign Minister Daw Zin Mar Aung and US officials amid last week’s US-ASEAN Special Summit in Washington (to which Min Aung Hlaing was not invited). Against this backdrop, military mouthpiece Myawady Daily argues that there would be no disputes between the nations of the world if other countries were able to achieve the good neighborly relations that Myanmar and China enjoy.

An editorial in the paper’s May 19 issue entitled “Pauk-Phaw”, a phrase meaning “fraternal” that is often used to describe the relationship between two neighbors, argues that the two countries have always enjoyed a trouble-free relationship because China has always been such a good neighbor to Myanmar, and has always wanted to see positive changes in Myanmar’s politics.

With the exception of China and Russia, the international community has condemned and largely shunned the regime for its violence against the Myanmar people. And the reasons are hardly secrets; Russia engages with the regime because the Myanmar military is a major buyer of its weapons, while China has extensive economic interests inside Myanmar.

AA put on notice

Regime spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun during a press conference in March 2021 / AFP

Junta spokesman Major-General Zaw Min Tun challenged the Arakan Army (AA) during a press conference on Thursday, saying the armed group’s recent statements seem intended to provoke a fight.

He told the AA not to blame Myanmar’s military if conflicts arise in Rakhine State because of the armed group’s recent activities. The Myanmar military is exercising restraint in order to avoid any harm coming to Rakhine people, and for the sake of peace, he warned.

In a Twitter post in early May, AA chief Major-General Tun Myat Naing issued a warning to the commander of the Myanmar military’s western command, which oversees operations in Rakhine State, in response to the regime’s tightened security checks and arrest of alleged AA affiliates. The AA chief said he would crush the command if it keeps on doing things that harm the Rakhine people.

On May 15, the armed group warned of potential clashes in Rakhine in a statement accusing the regime of disrupting the AA’s parallel administration. The following day, Maj-Gen Tun Myat Naing held a two-hour meeting with ministers of the civilian National Unity Government, which is likely to have bitterly upset the regime.

Myanmar’s military and the AA have observed an unofficial ceasefire since November 2020.