Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Poll Law Hands Win to Military Proxy Party; Regime Boss Counts Striking Medics; and More

By The Irrawaddy 4 February 2023

New Parties Registration Law favors USDP

USDP supporters on the campaign trail before the general election in 2020. / The Irrawaddy

The military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) on Feb. 1 re-registered as a political party with the junta-appointed Union Election Commission, as required by the new Political Parties Registration Law recently signed into effect by junta boss Min Aung Hlaing.

The new law effectively makes the junta-proposed election a one-horse race in favor of the party led by ex-generals.

Under the new law, political parties contesting at the Union level need to recruit a minimum 100,000 members within 90 days of registering, and open offices in more than 160 townships, or half of the country’s total, within 180 days. They are also required to contest in over 600 constituencies.

Since the country’s most popular party, the National League for Democracy, has rejected the junta’s poll, no parties are in a position to challenge the USDP.

Earlier, Min Aung Hlaing preached the merit of proportional representation (PR) which he said would replace the current first-past-the-post electoral system for the sake of ‘ethnic equality.’ Everyone is aware that his real intention is to prevent a landslide victory by a single party, as happened when the NLD won the 2015 and 2020 polls. Again, it didn’t take long for the junta boss to reveal his true colors when he imposed tight restrictions via the new Political Parties Registration Law.

Half of country’s medics join CDM

Doctors join an anti-coup protest in Yangon in February 2021. / The Irrawaddy

Overseeing the National Defense Security Council meeting to extend emergency rule for another six months earlier this week, junta boss Min Aung Hlaing admitted that 47,254 health workers had joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM).

Reporting to the NDSC on the work of the regime over the past two years, he said there were 103,214 health workers across the country during the third wave of Covid-19. Of these, 48,492 failed to report for duties and 47,254 of them were strikers, said the junta chief.

According to Min Aung Hlaing, about half of the country’s health workers have joined the CDM.

Health workers launched the Civil Disobedience Movement with street protests following the military takeover in February 2021. The nationwide strikes by medics were a serious blow to the junta, given they were led by doctors at government-run hospitals that form the backbone of Myanmar’s health system.

In an earlier speech to graduates of the Defense Services Medical Academy, Min Aung Hlaing called CDM medics unethical and accused them of disloyalty.

Today, the regime continues to detain CDM medics.

Two pariahs celebrate their ties

Anatoly Bulochnikov, vice-president of the Russia-Myanmar Friendship and Cooperation Association, meets junta chief Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw on Jan. 30. / Cincds

Two days before Min Aung Hlaing used the armed uprising against his military regime as an excuse to renew emergency rule, he met with Russia-Myanmar Friendship and Cooperation Association vice president Anatoly Bulochnikov in Naypyitaw.

The two discussed promotion of friendship, technical and economic cooperation between the two countries, and opening direct flights to boost tourism.

When the regime reshuffled its cabinet on Feb.1, it appointed retired major-general U Aung Thaw, chairman of the Myanmar-Russia Friendship Association, as hotels and tourism minister in a move to flatter Russia.

Myanmar and Russia will celebrate the 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties on Feb. 18, and junta-controlled newspapers have been featuring articles praising Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.

NLD vice-president absent from NDSC meet

Myanmar’s Vice President Henry Van Thio, center, in 2020. / AFP

Henry Van Thio, who has served continuously as second vice-president under the National League for Democracy government and now the junta, failed to show up again at the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) meeting on Tuesday.

He was missing after purportedly falling and injuring himself at his residence in the administrative capital of Naypyitaw and being hospitalized.

The former major of Chin ethnicity has not been seen in public since the military takeover. He was also absent from previous NDSC meetings, citing health reasons.

In December, he gave testimony at a junta-controlled court in Naypyitaw Prison in a corruption case filed against jailed civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and former president U Win Myint over a helicopter rental and purchase deal.

While Henry Van Thio was in hospital, T Khun Myat, who served as the Lower House speaker of the ousted NLD government and retained his position after the military takeover, joined the NDSC meeting and seconded Min Aung Hlaing’s view that prevailing instability warranted a six-month extension of emergency rule.