Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Regime Thumbs Nose at World After Executions; Takes Steps to Ensure Poll Win, and More

By The Irrawaddy 30 July 2022

Junta makes moves to enhance ‘credibility’ of its election

Votes being counted by government schoolteachers at a polling station during the 2020 general election. / The Irrawaddy

Amid grave doubts at home and abroad over the credibility of a new election promised by the Myanmar military regime in August next year, the junta-appointed Union Election Commission announced at a regular regime press conference on Tuesday that in addition to teachers, staff from the Immigration and Population Ministry and the Home Affairs Ministry will also be assigned to run polling stations in the upcoming vote.

It is a move to replace teachers—many of whom have refused to work under the regime and joined the Civil Disobedience Movement—with staff that are under the thumb of the military.

The regime has also confirmed a switch to the proportional representation system for the upcoming election, which would prevent a landslide by a single party like those achieved by the now ousted National League for Democracy in the 2015 and 2020 polls.

It is also in the process of amending the Political Parties Registration Law. It is highly probable that provisions restricting pro-democracy parties including the NLD will be added to the law.

Junta-appointed UEC chairman U Thein Soe, who will oversee the upcoming poll, is a former Myanmar military general. He also oversaw the 2010 election, which was widely believed to be rigged through the manipulation of early votes.

Immigration Minister U Khin Yi is the vice chairman of the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party, and played an important part in the military’s coup last year by organizing mass pro-military rallies.

As for the Home Affairs Ministry, it is one of the three key ministries directly controlled by Myanmar military under the 2008 Constitution, and was headed by generals even during the NLD’s rule. So… no question of the upcoming election being fixed, then.

Executions prompt international condemnation

Regime spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun during a press conference in March 2021 / AFP

Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun lashed out Tuesday against international condemnation of the country’s first use of capital punishment in decades, saying the four prisoners executed last weekend “deserved many death sentences”.

“If we compare their sentence with other death penalty cases, they have committed crimes for which they should have been given death sentences many times,” the junta spokesman, whose face was literally dark with rage, told a regular press briefing in Naypyitaw.

Eight months after their arrests, prominent pro-democracy activists Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw were hanged over the weekend for masterminding and being involved in the anti-regime armed struggle and related activities. Ko Aung Thura Zaw and Ko Hla Myo Aung were also hanged. The families of the four were not notified of the executions in advance. 

Monday’s announcement of the executions sparked condemnation around the world, and prompted Myanmar expats in Thailand, the US, Canada, and the Netherlands to stage protests. Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan called the executions a “grave setback” for ASEAN’s efforts to facilitate national reconciliation in Myanmar.

On Wednesday, mobs of pro-regime thugs stoned the houses of Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw in Yangon and cursed their grief-stricken relatives.

UN’s lip service helps no one in Myanmar 

The four executed anti-regime activists (left to right): Ko Jimmy, Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, Ko Aung Thura Zaw and Ko Hla Myo Aung

All 15 members of the UN Security Council including China and Russia condemned the junta’s executions of four pro-democracy activists on Wednesday.

The council also repeated its call for the release of all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as for dialogue and reconciliation, an immediate halt to all violence, respect for human rights and full aid access.

Despite its unanimous condemnation of the executions, the UNSC has yet to adopt any resolution to punish the regime since the coup last year, as regime allies China and Russia have blocked it from taking action against the junta.

Sinking to a new low

Regime backers attend a pro-execution rally in downtown Yangon on Friday.

When it comes to inhumanity, barbarity and willingness to commit atrocities, the Myanmar military junta knows no limits. Just take what they did in the aftermath of their executions of four anti-regime activists over the weekend. While the grieving families of the executed Ko Jimmy and Ko Zeya Thaw were still mourning their loved ones, regime-backed mobs descended on their homes in Yangon on Wednesday. They hurled stones and other projectiles at the late activists’ homes and denounced them, because their families told the media they were proud of their sacrifices. The family of another executed activist, Ko Aung Thura Zaw, received even harsher treatment; the regime arrested his mother and interrogated her for talking to the media. Her fate is still unknown. The family of another executed activist, Ko Hla Myo Aung, was ordered not to hold a funeral and to keep a low profile.

Further demonstrating its shamelessness, the regime on Friday bused in a group of assorted thugs, members of its proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party, and nationalists to downtown Yangon for a rally to support the executions, which have been condemned at home and abroad. Anyone familiar with the Myanmar military’s tactics will know that the demonstration is nothing more than an attempt to create a false impression among foreign observers that the hangings enjoy popular support.

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