Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Min Aung Hlaing Resorts to Magic Again; Coup Leader Visits Coco Islands Amid China Spy Claim; and More

By The Irrawaddy 15 April 2023

Junta boss prays for longevity

Min Aung Hlaing and his wife Kyu Kyu Hla set turtles free on April 9 in the Coco Islands.

Min Aung Hlaing and his wife Kyu Kyu Hla set free two turtles as part of yadaya, or the Burmese form of voodoo, during their visit to the Coco Islands on Sunday. Widely practiced in Myanmar, yadaya refers to rituals done to delay, neutralize and prevent misfortune. A succession of Myanmar military leaders, who are superstitious as can be, have been big fans of yadaya. Min Aung Hlaing is no exception.

Since turtles are an emblem of longevity in many cultures, Min Aung Hlaing and his wife are believed to have conducted their latest yadaya ritual in the hope of enjoying long lives, free from the danger of being arrested.

The junta boss was a keen follower of yadaya long before the coup he led in February 2021. He is known to obey the prescriptions of his astrological adviser, Vasipake Sayadaw U Kovida, who is famous for his vows of silence. Recently, female family members of junta soldiers were barred from wearing cheik htamein (a style of women’s sarong), while hundreds of royal poinciana trees along Aung San Suu Kyi road in Mandalay were cut down. Observers viewed both moves as yadaya rituals aimed at cursing jailed State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Coco Islands trip rings hollow

Amid reports that China is behind the Myanmar regime’s upgrade of military installations in the Coco Islands, junta boss Min Aung Hlaing traveled to the islands on Sunday to unveil a monument marking the meeting point of the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

It has long been rumored that Beijing is building a spy base on the Coco Islands to monitor India – which may explain why Min Aung Hlaing played down his presence at the ceremony, merely saying the islands play a crucial role in international maritime trade and the marine interests of Myanmar.

Earlier, junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun insisted that claims China is involved in the buildup of infrastructure on the islands are baseless. China has also rejected Indian reports that Beijing is using the Coco Islands as a “listening post” in the region.

Regime chief seeks divine blessings for his crimes

Min Aung Hlaing and family at consecration rites for the Sulamani Pagoda in Lashio, northern Shan State on April 11.

While some 100 people, including children as young as two and pregnant women, were being killed in a junta air strike on Sagaing Region’s Kantbalu Township on Tuesday, junta boss Min Aung Hlaing and his air force chief Tun Aung were consecrating a pagoda in Lashio in northern Shan State.

Boasting of himself as the defender of Myanmar’s Buddhism, Min Aung Hlaing has been consecrating one pagoda after another since the coup. He apparently has two motives for doing so. First, he hopes to win the hearts and minds of the country’s religious majority. Given that he is overseeing a brutal military campaign against his own people marked by regular atrocities against civilians, this ambition is unlikely to bear fruit.

Second, he is seeking divine blessings to sustain his rule.

He may also be hoping that as a Buddhist, consecrating pagodas might help offset his sins.
On Monday, his regime also killed nine civilians in air raids on Chin State’s Falam Township.

Junta increases military budget to US$2.7 billion

Myanmar’s regime troops at Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw on March 27. / AFP

The military got the lion’s share of the budget and the increase came after the regime chief’s vow to crush resistance to military rule. Read more here