Junta Watch: Regime Parties With Fellow Pariah Russia; Dictator Defends Sham Election; and More
By The Irrawaddy 25 February 2023
Naypyitaw, Moscow celebrate 75-year anniversary
Myanmar-Russia relations are going from strength to strength and have reached a peak, gushed deputy junta chief Soe Win at a reception to mark the 75th year of diplomatic ties between the two countries on Saturday.
Cooperation previously based on arms deals has expanded to other sectors, including nuclear technology, since both pariah regimes launched wars on civilian populations.
Soe Win also unveiled junta plans to open Myanmar consulates in St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk, cementing ties with a country that has unleashed death and destruction on Ukraine following its invasion last February.
Soe Win, who has visited Russia twice since the 2021 coup, joined Russian ambassador Nikolay Listopadov in cutting a cake adorned with the national flags of Russia and Myanmar at the reception.
Dictator defends plans for sham election
A public opinion poll in favour of the regime extending emergency rule for six more months shows that people want a new election, junta boss Min Aung Hlaing told a meeting on Thursday. He failed however to mention when the survey was conducted and on whom. Needless to say, what he called the findings of the survey are highly dubious.
In fact, the majority of Myanmar people, as well as foreign governments, reject the proposed election as a sham exercise designed to bring a veneer of legitimacy for military rule in Myanmar. Also opposed are pro-democracy revolutionary forces, plus many of the powerful ethnic armed organizations that have been fighting the Myanmar military for decades.
Min Aung Hlaing used force of arms to cancel the results of the 2020 general election – a poll of over 37 million voters that was broadly representative of the will of the people of Myanmar, according to international observers.
His junta has since changed the Political Parties Registration Law to make the proposed election a one-horse race for the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party.
He lashed out at international criticism of the proposed poll during Thursday’s meeting, calling it Myanmar’s affair and not an election for the world.
Min Aung Hlaing spooked by town’s name
The superstitious junta boss has changed the name of a frontier town in Kachin State in northern Myanmar bordering China, as ‘Kanpiketi’ sounds like ‘land of dryness and destruction’ when pronounced in Chinese.
Last week, the regime changed the name to ‘Kan Paing Ti.’
According to the junta, Kan means good luck, Paing means belonging to the Union, and Ti means stability and perpetuity.
Previous military dictator Saw Maung cited nationalism as his reason for changing colonial-era names of roads in Yangon, most of which had honored British officials and intellectuals and Chinese and Indian tycoons. May Myo, a hill station named after Colonel James May, also had its name changed to Pyin Oo Lwin to emphasize Burmese independence from colonial rule. But Min Aung Hlaing has cited superstition in changing the name, demonstrating his intelligence is lower than previous military dictators in Myanmar.
Three elephants in the room
In 2018, the now-ousted National League for Democracy government presented three elephant calves – called Hus Khaing Hla, Shwe Shwe Tun and Nyein Nyein Moe – to Russia to mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
On Wednesday, the Russian government staged an elephant show for Myanmar junta officials in Moscow to celebrate the 75th anniversary of ties. The gifts from the democratically elected government, which have now been renamed Luna, Mona and Audrey, were used to entertain officials from the military regime that deposed it.
Moscow’s brazen display came complete with a photo exhibition documenting how the NLD government sent the elephants as a token of friendship to Moscow, where they were cared for and trained at Durov’s Animal Theatre. The famous Moscow attraction played host to the reception marking the anniversary of diplomatic ties.