Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Summit Snub Stings Regime Boss; Tech Giants Shun Junta App, and More

By The Irrawaddy 14 May 2022

UK envoy denied entry, cools heels in Bangkok

British envoy to Myanmar Pete Vowles

Myanmar’s regime has refused to issue a visa for the top British diplomat to the country, Pete Vowles. It is the latest development in a saga dating to late April, when the junta formally notified Britain that it would not accept its designated envoy as chargé d’affaires, but would consider alternative candidates, after London decided to downgrade Vowles’ title from ambassador to chargé d’affaires ad interim.

The British envoy arrived in Myanmar late last year but did not present his credentials to the State Administration Council—the regime’s governing organ—despite repeated requests. He was locked out of the country from late February, when he left his Yangon residence for regional consultations and was refused permission to re-enter.

Since the military coup last year, several Western embassies have downgraded their diplomatic representation to the chargé d’affaires or “head of mission” level.

The UK has been trying to negotiate Vowles’ return to Myanmar but has so far failed.

Min Aung Hlaing trots out an old Tatmadaw cliché

Myanmar regime leader Min Aung Hlaing during a military parade on Armed Forces Day in March 2022 / Cincds

Embarrassed by ethnic Kachin, Karen and Karenni armed groups’ official refusal to join his peace talks, Min Aung Hlaing needed to say something in response, if only to save face.

Cut from the same cloth as Myanmar’s previous military regimes, which reflexively blamed other countries for any troubles they faced, he settled on a very clichéd riposte: that the armed groups’ foreign connections instructed them not to attend the talks. Whether they did or did not isn’t the point here.

What Min Aung Hlaing doesn’t realize is that the armed groups have outsmarted him, seeing the intention behind his invitation. Many people in Myanmar see the talks as the junta’s effort to coax the EAOs into refusing to help anti-regime forces, so that the regime can crush the armed resistance against it. The EAOs also know they will be next, given the military’s broken promises in the past. When you know someone isn’t trustworthy, why would you bother to pay attention to his empty words? Better to mind your own business.

Regime creates propaganda platform, loses it in 24 hours

Myanmar regime Information Minister Maung Maung Ohn (center) explains the MRTV App to Min Aung Hlaing (far right). / Cincds

After junta-controlled Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV)’s mobile application, which was designed to spread propaganda, was ditched by Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store, junta Information Minister U Maung Maung Ohn, a former major general, claimed that unscrupulous persons are using various means to disrupt the government’s efforts to release correct news and counter fake news. He added that saboteurs are, in the name of democracy, disrupting the media work of the Information Ministry by various means in order to spread false news.

The MRTV app was launched at a ceremony in Naypyitaw on May 5 attended by junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who called it a milestone in the history of the broadcaster. However, the following day, it was taken down after Justice for Myanmar (JFM), an activist group that monitors the regime’s businesses and networks, called on Google and Apple to ban the app, describing it as “part of the junta’s psychological warfare campaign against the people of Myanmar”.

The app is nothing more than the regime’s attempt to create a channel to spread its narrative of the post-coup situation in Myanmar, as its Burmese- and English-language newspapers, such as Myanma Alin, Kyemon and the Global New Light of Myanmar, are read by no one except military personnel. Maung Maung Ohn responded emotionally as the app, upon which the regime had pinned high hopes, was ditched 24 hours after its launch. Far from crushing the resistance movement, the regime is even struggling to fight a war of words with resistance forces.

Shunned from summit, junta boss lashes out at ‘interference’

As the US and ASEAN member states tried to find ways to solve the crisis caused by his military coup last year, Myanmar regime leader Min Aung Hlaing said on Thursday that the country would rarely be at peace as long as foreign nations are involved in its internal affairs.

His comment comes at a time when ASEAN is divided on the Myanmar issue. After the coup last year, Min Aung Hlaing hoped his regime would be able to engage with the regional bloc while most Western nations shunned him. However, the grouping barred him from its summits for his failure to honor its peace plan for Myanmar. His isolation was deepened this week when US and ASEAN leaders met for a summit in Washington, from which he was once again excluded. The foreign minister from Myanmar’s shadow government was invited instead, attending sideline meetings with US officials and bloc leaders.

Min Aung Hlaing’s comment Thursday merely underscored his desperation as an ostracized junta leader who is trying to blame others for the suffering he has caused since the coup. What he should know—and may be pretending not to know—is that Myanmar will truly be at peace only when his regime is totally ousted and he is put on trial.

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