Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Regime Promotes Heritage Farce to UNESCO; Military Reinforcements in Rakhine Rattle Truce; and More

By The Irrawaddy 1 April 2023

Thingyan propaganda

Thingyan revelers ride an open truck during a festival event organized by the regime in Yangon last year.

The military regime is producing a documentary about Thingyan, Myanmar’s traditional New Year festival, in a bid to have the water festival enshrined on UNESCO’s heritage list. The push has prompted the junta’s Culture and Religious Affairs Ministry to urge revelers not to drink too much in what is the country’s largest annual celebration.

In a vision that is as ludicrous as it is ridiculous, the regime sees the festival as an opportunity to create an impression of normalcy and stability in Myanmar, which has been plunged into armed conflict since the coup. But as expected, the majority of Myanmar people have no interest in Thingyan celebrations organized by the junta.

The regime appears to have conveniently forgotten what happened last year when Myanmar people boycotted the festival, forcing the junta to hire people and coerce civil servants to join the festivities to create an impression that its Thingyan pavilions were crowded with revelers. In Yangon, the event turned ugly, with trucks organized by the regime repeatedly visiting the regime-organized pavilions, and traffic police forcing drivers and passengers passing anywhere near a pavilion to stop and enter.

Now, the regime’s culture ministry is talking as if people were in a festive mood and ready to indulge in the annual celebration. Who do they think they are kidding?

Designer outfits ditched

Min Aung Hlaing and Kyu Kyu Hla take a guided tour in Sittwe under the watchful eyes of armed guards on March 30. / cincds

Kyu Kyu Hla, the wife of junta boss Min Aung Hlaing, has come under fire again, this time for her attire while accompanying her husband on a trip to Rakhine State in western Myanmar.

“How come Min Aung Hlaing has brought a maid with him?” netizens joked on social media, referring to Kyu Kyu Hla’s choice of a short-sleeved striped shirt with hta-mein (women’s sarong) as she visited Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine. She also left the shirt untucked – a significant departure from her usual style.

The wives of six majors accompanying her including Daw Nilar, spouse of military intelligence chief Ye Win Oo, followed her lead, also wearing plain, plaid, and striped shirts with hta-mein.

Kyu Kyu Hla, who is notorious for her love for luxury brands, is sanctioned by US government.

Rakhine peace shaken as junta stocks up on weapons

Min Aung Hlaing is greeted by a welcoming committee in the Rakhine State capital on March 30. / cincds

Junta boss Min Aung Hlaing arrived in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, on March 30 for his third monthly visit since January.

The trips follow the informal truce reached between the Myanmar military and the Rakhine’s ethnic armed group, the Arakan Army, last November. During his visits, Min Aung Hlaing called for swift completion of the India-backed Kaladan road-and-sea transport project, as well as for the success of the China-backed special economic zone in Kyaukphyu in the interests of Myanmar.

At the same time, the Myanmar military is reinforcing its troops and weaponry in Rakhine, and has also tightened security. Little wonder then that Min Aung Hlaing’s visits are prompting speculation among locals and observers.

Junta green-lights Belt and Road

Junta planning and finance minister Win Shein / cincds

With China resuming its investment projects in Myanmar, the regime has appointed its US-sanctioned deputy prime minister and finance minister U Win Shein as vice-chairman of the steering committee for implementation of the Belt and Road initiative, succeeding deputy junta chief Soe Win.

The committee was previously chaired by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested and imprisoned after being ousted in the February 2021 coup. Following the coup, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing took the helm of the committee, and Soe Win served as vice chair.

The junta’s replacement of Soe Win with U Win Shein, who has better experience with managing investment projects, signals a green light for China’s strategic project despite international sanctions.

Retired Top Brass Wheeled Out For Embattled Myanmar Junta Chief

Min Aung Hlaing salutes former president Thein Sein during a ceremony to honor retired senior military officials in Naypyitaw on March 27.

Min Aung Hlaing orchestrates show of support on Armed Forces Day as morale among troops and regime threatened by relentless resistance attacks. Read more here.

Myanmar Junta Chief Vows to Defeat Shadow Govt and Allied EAOs for Supporting Resistance

Myanmar regime chief Min Aung Hlaing salutes during a ceremony to mark the country’s 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw on March 27, 2023. / AFP

The Armed Forces Day comments highlight the growing threat posed by the National Unity Govt, People’s Defense Force and allied ethnic groups to Min Aung Hlaing’s regime. Read more here.