Myanmar junta uses Thai FM meeting to claim that Suu Kyi is ‘anti-PDF’

Using flyers and social media, the junta has attempted to turn the controversial meeting into fodder for its latest propaganda campaign

A week after allowing Thailand’s outgoing foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s military junta has begun using the encounter to claim that the detained leader opposes armed resistance to the regime’s rule.

According to residents of Mandalay, soldiers and police have been seen distributing flyers in the city since Monday claiming that Suu Kyi told the Thai FM she did not support the National Unity Government (NUG) established in the wake of her ouster in February 2021.

While Don confirmed last Tuesday that the meeting had indeed taken place, he made no mention of Suu Kyi’s stance on the NUG or its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force (PDF).

The flyers, which include photos of Suu Kyi and Don, cite an article from PanOrient News, a little-known outlet based in Japan that broke the news of their meeting.

Observers have expressed scepticism about PanOrient’s coverage of Myanmar issues, noting that its founder, Syrian national Khaldon Azhari, has recently taken an active role in helping the regime to spread its propaganda.

In its report, PanOrient claimed that Suu Kyi told her visitor that she “neither recognises nor supports” the NUG or the PDF. It also says that both are “accused by the government of Myanmar of ‘terrorism and the killing of innocent people’ and of being ‘supported by Western countries.’”

Referring to the PanOrient article, the flyers profess to share “the news about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi not supporting the NUG/PDFs, which are carrying out terrorist activities!”

They also highlight Suu Kyi’s belief in non-violent political struggle, claiming that the NUG had “initiated armed resistance against her political activities, as it goes against her non-violence principle.”

Also featured in the flyers are screenshots of Facebook posts by users expressing their intention to abandon armed resistance or their loss of faith in Suu Kyi for not supporting them.

Propaganda flyers distributed by Myanmar’s junta show photos of Aung San Suu Kyi and Thai foreign minister Don Pramudwinai (Supplied)

In Mandalay, the flyers were seen being distributed around the U Bein Bridge, a prominent landmark of Myanmar’s second-largest city. 

Residents of Mandalay Region’s Thabeikkyin Township, some 150km north of the city, also reported seeing regime soldiers distributing the flyers in several villages. 

“We encountered them as we were riding along the street. They didn’t say anything but stopped us and gave us a flyer. We took it because we worried that they would do something to us if we didn’t,” said one local.

Another resident dismissed the move as an act of desperation by the regime, which has faced unprecedented resistance since seizing power two and a half years ago.

“This is pretty low. No one in their right mind would believe this. We can now see how desperate and disgusting they have become,” he said.

A member of the Thabeikkyin Township PDF said that such tactics were unlikely to have much of an impact on support for resistance forces.

“The military is doing what they know and what they can. We are also doing what we have to do for the resistance. Those of us on the ground don’t bother much about this kind of propaganda,” he said.

Similar content has been widely disseminated online through pro-junta Telegram channels and on Facebook pages since the controversial meeting. The regime has also distributed video interviews with eight young people claiming to be former PDF members who defected to the regime after hearing about Suu Kyi’s alleged stance.

The regime’s use of pamphlets to spread its message is not new. In late 2021 and early 2022, as it struggled to contain the growing armed resistance movement in upper and central Myanmar, the military used helicopters to drop leaflets containing both direct and veiled threats aimed at discouraging support for or participation in anti-junta activities.

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