Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Coup Leader Urges Belt-Tightening While Declaring Return of ‘Stability’, and More

By The Irrawaddy 4 June 2022

Short of funds to crush his enemies, regime chief preaches frugality

Min Aung Hlaing inspects a farm at the Myanmar military’s Yangon Region Command in May 2022. / Cincds

At a meeting of his regime’s ministers on Tuesday, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing again urged them to be economical in public spending.

Since the coup last year, many people have refused to make payments of any kind to the regime, including utility bills and taxes, and boycotted military-linked products and services, plunging the junta into a financial crisis. 

At the meeting, the junta chief admitted his regime is still not able to collect the full amount of tax owed to the state. His repeated calls since last year for his cabinet to implement an economy drive demonstrate the impact of the mass boycott on the regime. 

At the same time, the junta has been increasing military expenditures as it tries to crush the armed resistance movement, while also spending heavily on building pagodas in a bid to exploit religion for political gain. 

The cash-strapped regime has tried various tricks to squeeze money out of people. For instance, earlier this year, it made changes to the Union Taxation Law imposing a 20,000-kyat (US$11) commercial tax on SIMs and a 15-percent tax on internet service providers’ income.

Amid power outages, dreams of electric trains 

Min Aung Hlaing inspects a locomotive factory in Yangon’s Insein on May 27, 2022. / MOI

Min Aung Hlaing again called for the introduction of an electric rail system during his visit to a locomotive factory in Yangon’s Insein Township on May 27, an instruction that confirms just how out of touch with reality he truly is.

As electric multiple unitsmultiple-unit trains comprising self-propelled carriages powered by electricity—are widely used in commuter rail networks around the world, Myanmar must also try to operate electric trains, the junta leader insisted, even as Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon, continues to suffer from blackouts. 

Give the current situation, travelers and Yangon commuters would be more than happy if the regime focused on improving the condition of the existing local and intercity trains, along with the railways themselves, never mind developing elaborate plans to run electric trains. Currently, trains are equipped with ancient, uncomfortable coaches and often fail to arrive or depart on time. The railroads are poorly built and passengers are guaranteed a bumpy ride.  

But in an editorial in its May 29 issue, regime mouthpiece Myanma Alin argued that electric buses and trains are not a dream, because the country aims for universal access to electricity by 2030. 

A few months after his coup last year, the junta chief called for the creation of a subway system and fleets of electric buses. Soon after, the country was hit by serious power outages. The regime said the 24-hour electricity supply would be restored in May, but blackouts continue. 

Military training to instill ‘personal discipline’

A female trainee takes part in a shooting competition at the Central Institute of Civil Service (Phaunggyi).

The military regime has reintroduced basic military training at the country’s two civil service institutes, which provide training for public officials preparing to take on more senior government jobs.

Under successive military regimes, from that of the late dictator Ne Win to the quasi-civilian government led by U Thein Sein, trainees had to undergo military training drills and were schooled in the ideological foundations of the regime, such as why it is important for Myanmar people to have “Union Spirit”, and the threats Myanmar faces from the West.

After the National League for Democracy government came to power in 2016, the institutes underwent changes aimed at bringing them in line with a more democratic era. There were no more military training drills, and weapons and ammunition provided for the training were returned to the relevant departments.

At the cabinet meeting of his regime on Tuesday, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said basic military training is provided at the institutes so that public servants learn to observe strong discipline in their daily lives.

Before we further explore the merits of military training, let’s take a look at the military personnel that the Myanmar military has taught and trained. As everyone can see, they have been killing innocent civilians; torching, bombing and shelling villages; looting valuables; and raping women of all ages. So, can we expect anything good from the training provided by such institutes?

Stability returning, Min Aung Hlaing declares 

“Stability has started to be restored,” Min Aung Hlaing announced at the meeting of his regime’s cabinet on Tuesday. The declaration is somewhat surprising, coming against a backdrop of ongoing violence against civilians by regime troops in central Myanmar, and a growing crime wave in cities. 

The day before he made his “stability” claim, a robbery took place in Yangon. Residents of the commercial capital do not feel secure in their city, faced with a crime wave triggered by the post-coup economic downturn and soaring food prices. Muggings and theft have become increasingly common in the city. 

In Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin and Kayah states, junta troops and their associates are slaughtering civilians and torching their homes. Karen State and parts of Mon State have seen clashes for months, and military tensions are also growing in Rakhine. 

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