Myanmar people wish junta chief ‘death and hell’ on his birthday

Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing’s July 3 birthday could have signified the end of the widely despised junta leader’s inglorious military career. 

On Saturday he turned 65: the age that he had himself once declared as that of mandatory retirement for the role of military commander-in-chief. 

Five months ahead of the day, he gifted himself an indefinitely extended tenure when he removed this age limit after overthrowing the country’s elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government in a coup on February 1. 

Min Aung Hlaing deposed the Aung San Suu Kyi-led civilian administration over the allegation—for which no credible evidence has surfaced—that fraud was committed in the November 2020 general election. The NLD, her party, won the vast majority of seats.  

Prior to the coup, the Union Election Commission, which has since been dismantled, had dismissed the military’s claims that electoral fraud had taken place. 

Min Aung Hlaing has attempted to justify his takeover of government as being in line with the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. The general public and the interim National Unity Government—made up of cabinet members appointed by the ousted elected lawmakers—have declared the charter void.  

Warnings of an impending coup were apparent even before elections were held last year, when the army began questioning the credibility of the upcoming poll. 

Min Aung Hlaing called a meeting to discuss the issue in August 2020 with the heads of dozens of political parties allied with the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.  

“There is nothing I dare not do,” he said in the meeting when asked by party leaders “for assistance” in the event of electoral fraud. 

Protesters march holding a banner with the message, “The people wish you a speedy death starting from your birthday” in Yangon on July 3 (Supplied)

‘Send them all to hell’

During the first months of his attempted transition from armed forces chief to head of a military dictatorship, Min Aung Hlaing sent thousands of people, including civilian leaders, activists and journalists, to prison and slaughtered nearly 900 more who resisted his rule, including dozens of children. 

The Myanmar public continues to reclaim the country’s streets and villages through anti-coup protests, braving bullets and arrests to express their opposition to military rule. Civil servants—teachers, nurses, doctors, local administrators and others—have walked away from their jobs, refusing to prop up institutions that serve the coup regime. Others have taken up arms to fight back against the junta’s terror. 

The public fury stems not only from horror at the crimes committed by the military junta following the coup but also from the coup itself, which destroyed Myanmar’s nascent democracy, and for many, ended their first limited exposure to rights expression and protection after decades of military rule.

Saturday’s 65th birthday of arguably the most hated man in Myanmar was therefore marked with continued public resistance to his attempt to return the country to military rule. 

“We wish you a speedy death starting from your birthday.”

People nationwide organised mock funerals, carried out a campaign of curses, and directed a range of expletives against Min Aung Hlaing and those close to him, including his coup accomplices. 

Protesters stepped on and burned pictures of the junta chief alongside messages that read “May you rest in hell” and “We wish you a speedy death starting from your birthday.”

Others burned mock coffins bearing Min Aung Hlaing’s name, saying that they wished he had never been born. 

Protesters burn a mock coffin for Min Aung Hlaing in Yangon’s South Dagon Township on July 3 (Supplied)

A resident of the northern town of Hpakant in Kachin State told Myanmar Now that she had participated in the “cursing campaign” against the coup leader on Saturday morning.

“I wish for his life to end as soon as possible,” she said, adding that she also hopes for an end to the military dictatorship. 

Another Hpakant resident said he cursed Min Aung Hlaing and his entire council.

“Let karma strike at all of them as quickly as possible and send them all to hell. May they have a plane crash if they travel by plane. May they have a car crash if they travel by car,” he said. “May Min Aung Hlaing and his accomplices perish, and may the people soon enjoy peace.”

A resident of South Dagon Township in Yangon said his birthday wish for Min Aung Hlaing was that “all the military thugs fall under the collective curse of the Myanmar people as soon as possible.”

“Let karma strike at all of them as quickly as possible and send them all to hell.”

Demonstrators burn pictures of junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and his fellow coup council members during an anti-military protest in Kachin State’s Hpakant on July 3 (Supplied)

Consolidating power

Since 2017, the military chief has attempted to consolidate his power by forcing some senior officials out of the military’s upper echelon, and appointing younger officers in their roles.

Lt-Gen Sein Win, formerly the minister of defence, and Lt-Gen Ye Aung, minister of border affairs, were forced to retire on the day of the coup. 

Gen Mya Tun Oo, who served as the chief of general staff for the army, navy and air force, was the ‘Number Three’ in the military until the junta chief appointed him to a less important role as defence minister following the coup. In an apparent demotion, Min Aung Hlaing also appointed Adm Tin Aung San as the minister of transport and communications. 

After the coup, both men were also appointed as members of the military council.

Lt-Gen Moe Myint Tun, 53, former army chief of staff and the commander of the special operations bureau, is one of the military’s youngest generals and known to be a close confidant of Min Aung Hlaing. Once believed to be fourth-in-command of the armed forces, it was speculated that he may have succeeded Min Aung Hlaing as the next commander-in-chief. 

Following the coup, he was appointed as a member of the military council and chair of the Myanmar Investment Commission. In June, Moe Myint Tun accompanied Min Aung Hlaing as his aide-de-camp on a one-week trip to Russia.

Military council member Moe Myint Tun is pictured (left) sitting next to Min Aung Hlaing during a June visit to Russia (Photo: Ministry of Defence – Russia)

‘Never able to live in peace’

Kyee Myint, a veteran human rights defender and lawyer, described the public’s protests against the senior-general on Saturday as karma for his depravity. 

“In his personal interest, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing did something that should not have been done to the country, and killed a lot of people,” he said. “The public no longer has good wishes for him, only anger.”

A young protester from the southern Tanintharyi Region town of Dawei said that the security and well-being of the public was dependent upon ending Min Aung Hlaing’s coup regime. 

“As long as he is alive, people will get killed every day. Lives are not safe. We live in fear about when the troops will come shoot at us, or when they will come to loot our house and destroy it,” he said.

“As long as he is in power, the country and its people will never be able to live in peace.”

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