Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Dictator’s Wife Hails Women Amid Military's Femicide; EAOs Rise Against Regime’s Poll Plan; and More  

By The Irrawaddy 21 January 2023

Wives of junta boss, deputy mock women’s empowerment

Min Aung Hlaing’s wife, Kyu Kyu Hla

Thousands of women have been arbitrarily detained since the coup in 2021, with many deprived of livelihoods and security amid social turmoil following the military takeover. Some have even been killed or raped by junta soldiers, or seen their children die in regime attacks.

Against this backdrop, junta boss Min Aung Hlaing’s wife Kyu Kyu Hla and his deputy’s wife Than Than Nwe on Monday presided over a hypocritical ceremony to honor those who have “contributed to the empowerment of women” across the country.

The ceremony was held to mark the 17th anniversary of the regime-sponsored Myanmar Women’s Federation, of which the two wives are honorary patrons.

The junta’s atrocities against civilian women are well documented, but less well publicized is the abuse perpetrated within military ranks for decades. It is an open secret that the exploitation suffered by privates in barracks also extends to their wives, who are routinely enslaved for unpaid menial work by the wives of higher-ranking servicemen.

Mixed reaction to Min Aung Hlaing’s proposed poll

Ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) have rejected the military regime’s proposal to hold an election this year and called for efforts to halt ongoing preparations for the poll.

Powerful EAOs including the Kachin Independence Army, Karen National Union, Karenni National Progressive Party, Palaung State Liberation Front, and Ta’ang National Liberation Army have declared their opposition to the junta’s plan.

Also denouncing the poll is the Strategic Initiative Forum, a coalition of democratic forces in Myanmar. The forum is working to establish a federal democratic union, and comprises the General Strike Committee, the KNU, KNPP, the Women’s League of Burma, the Democratic Party for a New Society, and individuals committed to democratic development.

The National League for Democracy, which won the 2020 general election, and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, which won the third-largest share of votes, have also rejected the poll.

On the other hand, ethnic groups currently in talks with the regime – the Arakan Liberation Party, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council, the Lahu Democratic Union, and Pa-O National Liberation Organization – have expressed their support for the proposed poll.

The military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party, the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, and the Arakan Liberation Party have declared they will contest the poll.

Min Aung Hlaing last year urged EAOs to press their demands through Parliament, offering to grant business licenses to those that make peace with the regime. In his Independence Day address on January 4, he pledged power would be transferred to the party that won the election.

Junta boss never tires of attacking NLD 

Min Aung Hlaing’s malice toward the National League for Democracy (NLD) appears to be endless. Just two weeks before the end of emergency rule, which was imposed when he seized power from the democratically elected NLD government in 2021, the junta boss still can’t stop himself from attacking the country’s most popular party.

Repeating his groundless justification of the coup during his visit to Naga Self-Administered Zone on Monday, Min Aung Hlaing said the military was forced to seize power because the NLD committed fraud in the 2020 general elections. He also accused NLD supporters of undermining the country’s stability.

Following his visit, U Win Myint, the jailed president of the ousted NLD government, was transferred to Taungoo Prison as the regime continued to persecute NLD members and supporters. Several other NLD members and supporters have been killed or detained since the start of the year.

Over the past two years since the coup, some 200 NLD members including more than 90 former lawmakers have been detained at the orders of Min Aung Hlaing. Sixty-seven of them have died in custody. Among them was former NLD lawmaker Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, who was hanged in Yangon’s Insein Prison.

The regime has also handed NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi a total of 33 years in jail, effectively a life sentence for the 77-year-old democracy leader.

Min Aung Hlaing’s motivation for staging the coup was not just his resentment towards the NLD, however, but also his mania to become the country’s president.