Junta Watch: Citizens Blamed for Blackouts; Regime Forces Opponents to Accept Awards; and More
By The Irrawaddy 14 January 2023
Citizens told to tighten belts as regime boss splurges
Junta mouthpiece the Myawady Daily has suggested that citizens are wasting electricity that is supplied in abundance. In fact, residents across the nation have been suffering worsening electricity blackouts since late 2021.
“Love your country by saving electricity,” urged the newspaper’s Jan. 10 editorial.
It claimed that consumers are neglecting to save energy because electricity rates are much cheaper in Myanmar than in neighboring ASEAN countries.
It failed however to explain how people could be wasting electricity when they are only supplied for a few hours per day. Nor did it mention that people cannot afford to waste electricity amid soaring food prices and a living-cost crisis in the turmoil following the 2021 coup.
The editorial echoed junta boss Min Aung Hlaing’s advice in December, when he urged people to use bicycles rather than vehicles “if they love their motherland”, as his cash-strapped regime seeks to reduce dollars spent on fuel imports. Since the coup, Min Aung Hlaing has been urging Myanmar people to reduce their consumption of various staples, including rice and oil, as the crisis deepens.
In stark contrast, the junta boss has squandered billions in public funds to create a veil of legitimacy as the country’s leader since seizing power from the democratically elected National League for Democracy government. Along with lavishing honorary titles on junta cronies and organizing grand military reviews, Min Aung Hlaing is now directing state funds into financing an election in an apparent bid to become president.
The poll has been dismissed by Myanmar’s shadow civilian government and democracies around the world as a sham exercise designed to cement military rule.
Junta rewards opponents to sow discord
Junta-appointed chief ministers and military commanders have been delivering titles to recipients at their doorsteps after they failed to show up to be handed the awards personally by junta boss Min Aung Hlaing earlier this month in Naypyitaw.
Many of the title recipients are junta loyalists, but some were honored posthumously, and some perhaps, unwillingly.
Among them were ministers of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government which was ousted by the military in a coup in February 2021.
On Jan. 11, junta-appointed Naypyitaw Council chairman Tin Oo Lwin rang the doorbell of former hotels and tourism minister U Ohn Maung of the deposed NLD government. U Ohn Maung had little choice but to accept the Thiri Pyanchi title delivered to his doorstep.
A total of 24 members of the NLD cabinet, including information minister U Pe Myint, agriculture minister Dr. Aung Thu, and transport minister U Thant Sin Maung were awarded Thiri Pyanchi or Wunna Kyawhtin titles.
Distinguished poet Ko Lay (Inwa Gone Yi), who is a prominent NLD supporter, was handed an Alinkar Kyawswar title by the junta chief. Junta-appointed Mandalay Region chief minister Maung Ko delivered the title to Ko Lay. The ailing poet was in no position to refuse given his position attached to a ventilator in a Mandalay hospital.
The regime has pushed them into a tight corner by reporting on the delivery of titles in its newspapers. Recipients will be concerned about being penalized if they decline the awards. On the other hand, accepting the title risks attracting negative public opinion. It is fair to say the regime is attempting to drive a wedge in society by forcibly delivering titles.
Min Aung Hlaing grants blood money to newborns
Junta boss Min Aung Hlaing and his wife Kyu Kyu Hla gave 100,000 kyats each to parents of 40 babies who were born at military hospitals on January 4 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Independence Day.
Among the numerous deadly air strikes conducted on Min Aung Hlaing’s orders since the coup was the attack that killed 11 children at a school in Depayin Township, Sagaing Region in September last year. Min Aung Hlaing has rewarded the air force chief and pilots conducting the campaign with honorary titles.
Meanwhile Kyu Kyu Hla, despite serving as patron of the government-sponsored Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association, has done nothing to defend children, more than 260 of whom have died at the hands of Myanmar’s military since the coup.
Their donation of four million kyats to children on January 4 was a publicity stunt and came after Min Aung Hlaing squandered billions of kyats pretending to be Myanmar’s president by overseeing a lavish Independence Day military parade.
Regime orders prison crackdown
Junta Home Affairs Minister Lieutenant-General Soe Htut toured Pathein, Insein and Taungoo prisons on January 12 and called for anti-riot drills.
His visit followed a brutal crackdown on a protest inside Pathein Prison in which a political prisoner was killed and nine others severely injured last week.
The junta minister also ordered tighter prison inspections and called on guards to practise regularly with anti-riot weapons. He also inspected the parcel drop-off counter at Insein Prison where a parcel bomb killed eight people in October last year.
The regime has been persecuting political prisoners in jails across the country. In March last year, seven inmates were killed when security guards opened fire on an alleged escape attempt at a prison in Kale, Sagaing Region.