Junta Watch: Magic Ritual Fails to Deter Cyclone; Dictator Vows Agri-Reform as Soldiers Torch Fields; and More
By The Irrawaddy 13 May 2023
Junta seeks help from dragons to divert cyclone
Junta officials have again demonstrated their level of intelligence by performing a magical ritual to ‘feed dragons’ to divert the impending cyclone.
Under the guidance of pro-regime Buddhist monk U Pawara Theikdi (aka Aung Zay Sayadaw), Ayeyarwady Region chief minister U Tin Maung Win, Southwestern Command chief Brigadier-General Kyi Khaing, and Pamawaddi naval base commander Brig-Gen Tin Maung Than gathered at Cape Negrais (Mawatinzun) in Ayeyarwady Region’s Pathein Township on Monday to conduct the dragon-feeding rite.
Ayeyarwady Region was hardest hit when Cyclone Nargis battered Myanmar in May 2008.
The monks and junta officials recited a mantra 37 times while pointing their fingers in the direction where the storm was brewing.
Their absurd undertaking failed, however, as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System on Thursday issued a red alert for tropical cyclone Mocha, warning that more than 2 million people in Rakhine State, and Magwe and Sagaing regions were at risk.
In 2008, Cyclone Nargis left at least 138,000 dead and missing in Myanmar, in the country’s worst natural disaster on record.
Min Aung Hlaing harvests farce
Despite the Food and Agriculture Organization warning in early May that Myanmar is among the world’s top 10 food-insecure countries, junta boss Min Aung Hlaing told a meeting on “boosting agricultural productivity” in Naypyitaw on Wednesday that the country’s COVID- and coup-hit economy will ‘grow by leaps and bounds’ if the agricultural sector is reformed.
The agriculture industry has struggled since the coup, as farmers across the country – including the agricultural heartlands of Sagaing and Magwe – have fled as junta troops torch their homes and fields.
People going hungry in many parts of the country are at risk of further suffering as the regime blocks deliveries of humanitarian aid.
Despite Min Aung Hlaing’s bombast, Myanmar is now ranked sixth on the FAO’s list of countries facing severe food insecurity, after Congo, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Yemen.
Gun control, junta style
On Thursday, Min Aung Hlaing signed a law into effect prescribing the death sentence for stealing or attempting to steal, unlawfully selling, transferring, or destroying state-owned weapons and ammunition.
The law’s enactment follows the junta’s offer of cash rewards to resistance fighters who defect to the Myanmar military along with their weapons. Earlier, the regime offered amnesty to people who surrendered their illicit firearms, promising not to check how the weapons were acquired.
The latest move aims to curb the spread of arms amid the ongoing defection of junta soldiers and police to the resistance side, as well as escalating attacks and seizure of weapons from junta bases by resistance forces.
In late January, the regime responded to increased killings of retired military officials and informants by issuing a policy allowing it to provide guns to military supporters.