Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Myanmar’s Chief Torturer Rewarded with Cabinet Post; New Curfew Threatens Lives; and More

By The Irrawaddy 11 February 2023

Loyalist torturer promoted to deputy minister

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing this week rewarded loyalist Major General Toe Yi with a deputy ministership. The deputy military intelligence chief, who has overseen brutal interrogation at junta’s torture chambers, has become deputy home affairs minister in the junta cabinet.

Toe Yi is second in command at the military intelligence office headed by Ye Win Oo, a confidant of Min Aung Hlaing and his family. Ye Win Oo is also joint secretary of the junta’s governing body, the State Administration Council.

Min Aung Hlaing last year granted Toe Yi the title of Zeya Kyawhtin, an honor for outstanding military service.

The replacement of Maj-Gen Soe Tint Naing with Toe Yi came after the regime extended emergency rule for six more months to step up its terror campaign against the country’s resistance forces. Toe Yi’s record of brutality as head of the regime’s torture chambers, where hundreds of regime opponents have been killed since the coup, likely made him a good fit for promotion by Min Aung Hlaing.

Toe Yi graduated from the 77th intake at Officer Training School (OTS), while his new boss and senior, Home Affairs Minister Soe Htut, was part of the 64th intake.

Junta adds curfew, gathering bans to martial law

A village in Sagaing Region after an arson attack by regime troops.

Last week, the military regime imposed martial law in 37 townships across the country, including in the resistance strongholds of Sagaing and Magwe regions. A few days later, it imposed a curfew and banned gatherings in some 30 townships.

Signed by regional commanders, the orders cover townships in Sagaing, Magwe and Bago regions and Chin states where people are not allowed outside from 6 pm to 6 am or from 9 pm to 4 pm. The regime also imposed bans on gatherings of more than five people in those townships and warned against any action deemed disruptive to security forces.

Those who fail to comply face arrest, the regime warned. The strict curfew that covers all hours of darkness will cause problems for locals who suffer health emergencies, delaying treatment and threatening lives.

Meanwhile in Chin State, where the majority of residents are Christians, the ban on gatherings of more than five people effectively bars them from attending worship on Sunday.

Junta pulls another dumb election stunt

A Union Election Commission staffer explains the Myanmar Electronic Voting Machine to junta boss Min Aung Hlaing on Feb 9. / Cincds

Junta boss Min Aung Hlaing and his fellow generals tried out the new Myanmar Electronic Voting Machine (MEVM) on Thursday as part of plans to cement their rule via a bogus election this year.

Officials from the junta-appointed Union Election Commission explained to generals how the MEVM operates, while the junta chief gave guidance as to how the system can be improved, according to junta media reports.

The electricity-powered voting machines were introduced amid widespread power outages that have forced people across the country to rely on power banks to use their mobile phones. And guidance on how to use them comes at a time when many voters still have no idea about the proportional representation system the junta plans to introduce for its proposed election.

The MEVM’s are thought to have been supplied by neighboring India, which has promised to help the junta’s conduct its so-called election.

Electronic voting is used widely used the world. But for a military regime that brazenly stole the votes of 27 million people in the 2020 general election, the MEVMs present another opportunity to rig the vote.

Regime lashes back at global body

Myanmar refugee children who fled attacks by regime troops cook at a camp in Nawphewlawl near the Myanmar-Thailand border in Karen State. / AFP

The junta’s foreign ministry has hit back at statements issued by United Nations bodies to mark the two-year anniversary of military rule in Myanmar.

Humanitarian needs are on the rise and the operational environment is further worsening, declared the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

The UN Secretary-General’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric also criticized the junta’s proposed election. “Without conditions that permit the people of Myanmar to freely exercise their political rights, the proposed polls risk exacerbating instability,” he said in a statement. And to add insult to injury, UN special Rapporteur Thomas Andrews called on the international community to support the National Unity Government (NUG), which has been fighting the regime via its People’s Defense Force armed wing.

The junta’s foreign ministry retaliated, calling statements by the global intergovernmental body “fraudulent, biased and unilateral.”

It was the first statement issued by the military regime’s foreign ministry since former ambassador to the US and UN, U Than Swe, became foreign minister following the junta’s extension of emergency rule for six months on Feb. 1. The junta foreign ministry also criticized the UN and international community for not mentioning the violence of the NUG in their statements and said: “Myanmar categorically rejects all their immoral and irresponsible statements and acts.”

U Than Swe was the classmate of his predecessor, U Wunna Maung Lwin, who has recently been appointed to the junta’s governing body, the State Administration Council. His statement reflects the fact that he is another loyalist of junta boss Min Aung Hlaing.

According to UNOCHA, 17.6 million people – nearly one-third of Myanmar’s population –are in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023.