Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Regime Boss’s Anti-Cyclone Advice in a Nutshell; Currying Favor With India; and More

By The Irrawaddy 20 May 2023

Min Aung Hlaing teaches Sittwe residents how to suck eggs 

Storm wreckage from the cyclone litters a police station in Sittwe, Rakhine State. / The Irrawaddy

Even uneducated fishermen know that coconut palms are resistant to gale-force winds. So it was like a boy teaching his grandmother to suck eggs when junta boss Min Aung Hlaing called for the planting of palms during his visit to Sittwe, Rakhine State in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha, which killed hundreds and caused massive destruction.

“You may notice that coconut palms were not blown down during the storm,” he told residents of the seaside town.

He added that whenever he visits Rakhine State and coastal areas, he always calls for large numbers of palms to be planted.

“You should learn from the latest natural disaster,” he said, concluding the lecture.

When storms from the cyclone began lashing Sittwe on Sunday, instead of supervising disaster response measures, Min Aung Hlaing was in Kengtung in Shan State together with his two favorite monks to consecrate a pagoda.

Junta boss promotes ‘samosa’ diplomacy 

Min Aung Hlaing attends an event marking the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Myanmar and India on May 14. / Cincds

Diplomatically shunned around the world, junta boss has been forced to curry favor with Myanmar’s neighbors China and India, two of only a handful of countries that engage with the regime. The vassal relationship was underlined by an event to mark the 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Myanmar and India on May 14.

According to protocol, Min Aung Hlaing could have sent his foreign minister, but he attended the event himself to highlight how much importance he attaches to the regime’s relationship with India.

At the event, he thanked Delhi for supporting Myanmar and waffled on about things the two countries have in common. In an apparent attempt to promote the shared bond between the two countries, he blurted out that samosas, chapatis and dosa are also favorite foods of Myanmar people. His statement drew ridicule on social media, where people joked about his chapati-samosa diplomacy.

Along with China, India cooperates with Myanmar’s junta in the military, political and economic spheres, while western countries have slapped sanctions on the regime and its senior officials. To woo the giant neighbors’ support, Min Aung Hlaing has attended not only diplomatic events but also cultural events like Diwali and Chinese New Year celebrations in person.

Resistance strongholds excluded from cyclone recovery plan 

An elderly resident prays in the first-floor window of an inundated house in Salin Township, Magwe Region on Monday. / CJ

On Thursday, Min Aung Hlaing assigned 20 senior military officers ­– mainly lieutenant-generals and brigadier-generals – to spearhead relief and recovery efforts in 18 townships in western Myanmar’s Rakhine and Chin states that were hit by Cyclone Mocha last weekend.

But the junta boss failed to do likewise for Sagaing and Magwe regions in central Myanmar, where the storm left a trail of devastation. Thousands of acres of farms were inundated and cattle and agricultural equipment swept away by floods there. Cyclone victims across both regions are in desperate need of food, drinking water and clothes. But so far, no help has arrived from the military regime.

It remains unclear whether the junta has any recovery plan for storm victims in Magwe and Sagaing, which are a hotbed of armed resistance against military rule. Given that junta soldiers raided several villages in Sagaing’s Kani Township amid heavy rain triggered by Cyclone Mocha, it would be fair to conclude that the regime wants to see them suffer.