Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Leader Wants to Be King; Spokesman Justifies Air Attack on Concert; and More

By The Irrawaddy 29 October 2022

Junta spokesman tries to justify bombing of Kachin concert

Scenes of destruction after junta air raids on a Kachin concert in Hpakant. / CJ

“Throughout the history and till now, Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] has never attacked civilians,” was junta spokesman Major-General Zaw Min Tun’s response published in junta-controlled newspapers on Thursday when asked by CNN about the regime’s deadly bombing of an anniversary celebration held by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) on Sunday.

Don’t you believe it!

The junta spokesman tried to justify the military operation, saying it was necessary because the Kachin ethnic armed group trained and supplied People’s Defense Force groups (PDFs), which the regime has labeled as terrorists, with weapons and ammunition in Sagaing in central Myanmar.

Sagaing Region, which was the first in Myanmar to launch armed resistance against the regime, has suffered most from the junta’s atrocities, ranging from arson attacks and air raids to arbitrary killings. The regime harbors a particular grudge against Sagaing as junta forces have suffered heavy casualties in the region, which has been dubbed by its opponents as the “Graveyard of the Regime”, and where PDFs have control of trunk roads and have started to establish a parallel administration.

The regime has often complained that the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the KIO’s military wing, is supplying arms to PDFs in Sagaing. U Hla Swe, an ex-military officer and senior figure in the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party, at a press conference in Naypyitaw on Aug. 17, urged the regime to bomb the KIA’s ordnance factory. The KIA has rejected the junta’s peace talks offer, calling the talks a sham.

At least 63 people were killed and some 60 others injured in the junta’s aerial bombing of  a concert to mark the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the KIO in a village in Kachin State’s Hpakant on Sunday. The majority of those killed and injured were identified as civilians. But Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun denied civilian casualties, saying there was no civilian in the area as it is KIA-controlled territory.

Some 23 KIA officer cadets were killed when the Myanmar military shelled an officers’ academy at the KIA headquarters near Laiza on Nov. 19, 2014.

Murderer-cum-intellectual property thief

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, accompanied by responsible officials, inspects the construction of Nay Pyi Taw State Academy in Zabuthiri Township in the Naypyitaw Council Area in July 2022.

On Oct. 22, when he met micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the administrative capital, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing called for support to turn Naypyitaw into the academic hub of Myanmar. But it is doubtful that he came up with the idea himself.

In fact, before the coup, detained civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi issued instructions to turn Naypyitaw into the “knowledge hub” of Myanmar. The Naypyitaw Council, the executive body of the city, was working in collaboration with the Education Ministry and the President’s Office even before the 2020 general election to establish five universities and an ICT park similar to those in Yangon, Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin, as well as to invite international universities to set up campuses there.

Six months after the  military coup in which he seized power from the elected National League for Democracy government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Min Aung Hlaing told his subordinates that Naypyitaw could be turned into a learning hub, as if it were his own idea.

Then, he ordered the establishment of the Naypyitaw State Academy with the stated purpose of producing human resources necessary for the country, and instructed junta education minister Dr. Nyunt Pe at the same time to make sure the academy is ranked among the top global universities.

Nothing more needs to be said if it is his own idea.

Min Aung Hlaing under delusion that he is destined to be king

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing sprinkles scented water on the partially finished plinth of the Buddha statue in October 2021.

Though Min Aung Hlaing often says the military takeover was in line with the army-drafted 2008 Constitution, it is common knowledge that he is utterly mad for kingship. His obsession with pagodas and white elephants is testimony to his madness. Because historically, those are things that Myanmar monarchs built or captured to enhance their perceived greatness.

Recently, further proof of Min Aung Hlaing’s delusions of grandeur was revealed. The sitting Buddha image that he is having built in Naypyitaw, and which is touted as the world’s biggest such statue, sits on a Raja Palin or ruler’s throne, said Lieutenant Colonel Tint Lwin, who is in charge of carving the Buddha statue, as he recounted his experiences in building the statue during a talk show aired on junta mouthpiece Myawaddy Television on Wednesday.

The statue’s 18-foot-high plinth includes a 12-foot base built to resemble Raja Palin. In Myanmar culture, Palin is a symbol of kingship and sovereignty. This is why Min Aung Hlaing receives foreign dignitaries and diplomats before the Palin in the Credentials Hall in the Presidential Residence, pretending to be the legitimate head of state.

It should come as no surprise that Min Aung Hlaing is mad for kingship, considering that Sitagu Sayadaw, an influential faith leader who has fallen from grace due to his ties with the regime following last year’s coup and is now supervising the construction of the Buddha statute, has hailed him a “king of great wisdom and generosity”.

ASEAN toothless in taming Myanmar junta

Myanmar’s seat lies empty during the Special ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta on Thursday. / AFP

The Myanmar military regime has warned the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that forcing it to implement a peace plan agreed by the leaders of the 10-nation bloc last year will do more harm than good for the Myanmar people.

ASEAN last year proposed a peace plan known as the Five-point Consensus, which requires the junta to end violence and begin a dialogue with all sides of the conflict for the restoration of democracy.

The junta nodded to the plan but did not bother to implement it. It is quite clear that it just said yes to buy time and ease international pressure.

After top diplomats of ASEAN reaffirmed the bloc’s commitment to the consensus on Thursday despite the fact that there has been no tangible proof of the regime implementing it over the past year, the regime has apparently become more assertive, and even warned the bloc to stop putting pressure on it, saying that “injecting additional pressure by setting a timeframe will create more negative implications than positive ones.”

The junta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the regime would not be bound by the outcomes of the meeting as it was held without Myanmar.

Over the past year, the regime has continued its campaign of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings of civilians, and air strikes on anti-regime resistance forces, utterly ignoring the peace plan.