Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Regime Boss Ties ‘Patriotism’ to Fuel Bills as Wife Pens Ode to Air Force

By The Irrawaddy 17 December 2022

Riding a bicycle means patriotism to Min Aung Hlaing

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing cheapened the notion of “patriotism” when he urged Myanmar people to ride bikes instead of motor vehicles earlier this week in Kachin State.

At a meeting with micro, small and medium enterprise business owners in Kachin on Dec. 13, he urged people to ride bicycles if they are patriotic, because bicycles do not need fuel.

The reason is clear. His regime is short of hard currency and wants to minimize spending of US dollars on oil imports. Riding a bike to work or the grocery shop is not a bad thing. But it seems peculiar to link one’s love of country with fuel, the necessity of the modern world. Despite Min Aung Hlaing’s attempts to imply otherwise, this is not the way someone expresses their love for their country.

Despite his repeated calls on the public and on regime ministers to tighten their belts, Min Aung Hlaing has been squandering public funds on vanity projects since the takeover. Besides splashing huge sums on constructing and consecrating pagodas, he has spent billions of kyats to confer hollow titles on sycophants and mark the country’s important days—all in a bid to portray himself as the true leader of the country.

Min Aung Hlaing has also urged people to save energy, and consume less rice and cooking oil. It seems to be a case of “Do as I say, not as I do”.

Kyu Kyu Hla sings Min Aung Hlaing’s tune

Kyu Kyu Hla (right) attends an event to commemorate the diamond jubilee of the Air Force on Dec. 15, 2022.

To adapt a phrase, the pen is no less wicked than the sword! Wrong? Well, perhaps you’re not familiar with the case of Kyu Kyu Hla, the like-minded wife of junta chief Min Aung Hlaing.

The Dec. 16 issues of the junta-controlled newspapers featured a poem, “To Diamond Jubilee Air Force”, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Air Force the previous day. The poem was written by Thiri Pyae Sone May, a pen name of Kyu Kyu Hla.

The poem hailed the Air Force, which has carried out numerous deadly air raids on civilians and non-military targets including a school in central Myanmar and a music concert in the country’s north.

Affectionately addressed by Min Aung Hlaing as Sayarma (teacher), Kyu Kyu Hla is a former Burmese literature lecturer at Yangon University. The 67-year-old has been writing pro-military articles and poems in anniversary editions of military magazines under the pen name of Thiri Pyae Sone May, Thiri Pyae Sone May (Myanmarsar or Burmese literature), making herself the perfect match for Min Aung Hlaing.

KIA leader slams junta chief

Regime chief Min Aung Hlaing

“To criticize considerately, it appears the Senior General is playing guitar without tuning it up first,” Lieutenant General Gun Maw of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said in a recent interview with Radio Free Asia about how the Myanmar military chief is handling state affairs since the coup.

The interview took place during Min Aung Hlaing’s visit to Kachin State this week. And, the Kachin ethnic armed group leader took the opportunity to emphasize that Min Aung Hlaing is doing badly.

Over the past 22 months since the putsch, Min Aung Hlaing has failed in every sector from politics and the economy to military and diplomatic issues.

Min Aung Hlaing called for unity as he met soldiers from local battalions in northern Myanmar during his visit to Kachin. His visit came at a time when the regime is suffering heavy casualties in Kachin amid fighting with the KIA and People’s Defense Forces. Gun Maw said both the strength and capacity of junta troops have weakened, and the regime has little hope of lasting long.

Nuclear energy talks with Russia continue

Deputy junta chief Soe Win meets a delegation from Russia’s Rosatom in Naypyitaw on Dec. 13.

Deputy junta chief Soe Win and a Russian delegation led by deputy director-general Nikolay Spasskiy of state-owned Russian nuclear company Rosatom discussed the feasibility of proposed nuclear-related projects to be developed jointly by the junta’s ministries of electricity, and science and technology, and Rosatom, in Naypyitaw on Dec. 13.

Technicians from Rosatom have been in Myanmar since early December, conducting a feasibility study for a thermal plant in the country. According to junta media, in addition to the nuclear power plans, Myanmar has identified six potential sites for wind power projects, with a total capacity of over 8,100 megawatts. The wind turbine projects will supply electricity over the long term, said the report.

The Russian ambassador to Myanmar also said that the thermal power plant could be built within a short period of time, but could be used long-term.

The junta reports however did not mention when exactly the projects will start or when they would supply electricity to Myanmar. On the other hand, the regime has publicly announced that there would be power outages until the rainy season, which usually begins in late May in Myanmar, as hydropower is the main source of electricity in the country. Min Aung Hlaing has also been urging people to save energy.