CARETAKER GOVERNMENT FORMED: Military’s latest move to cling to power

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Gen Min Aung Hlaing latest action of declaring caretaker government on August 1, exactly six months after the military coup on February 1, has been speculated as a trick to let international community believe that its setup is only temporary and also to gain legitimacy in the UN as a recognized government and not as State Administration Council (SAC) or military council as it is now known. Besides, a leader from parallel National Unity Government (NUG) said it might as well be to woo back his troops defection to the civil disobedience movement (CDM) who are crossing over in large numbers.

MAL
Gen.Min Aung Hlaing declaring caretaker government on MRTV , August 1

But the junta according to state-run Myawaddy TV said: “In order to perform the country’s duties fast, easily and effectively, the SAC has been reformed as caretaker government of Myanmar.”

Whatever the case, while this is the second such caretaker government formation, the first one been in September 1958 when it was allowed to be formed as caretaker government by the then civilian government of U Nu.

The official version was the caretaker government would clean up the mess caused by the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) infighting between the Clean AFPFL faction led U Nu and Stable AFPFL faction led Kyaw Nyein and Ba Swe, and to help conduct the free and fair election.

The unofficial version is that Gen Ne Win was actually keen to overthrow the civilian government from the outset, according to Brigadier Gen Maung Maung in his “Some aspects of the care-taker government”. But U Nu told Gen Ne Win that he would be made caretaker prime minister if he promised that election would be held after six months, to which he agreed.

Later in his acceptance speech before parliament, General Ne Win promised to “do my best to hold fair and free elections within six months if the insurgency and crimes are brought to an end within the period.” His cabinet was composed of former civil servants; party politicians were excluded, according to the Global Security Organization Newsletter.

But in contrast the recent renaming by Min Aung Hlaing as caretaker government is created from military coup setup of SAC, which has forcibly taken over the power from the civilian government led by the NLD. Thus, it doesn’t make much sense in the eyes of international community to see it as an interim government to hold credible election. Strictly speaking it has no mandate in a legal sense and also no trustworthiness because of the clear existing conflict of interest of the military to meddle in politics, like it has done since all along.

In addition, the junta’s brutality on cracking down on demonstrators and oppressive measures meted out against the public are there for all to see, which begs the question if it has any legitimacy left to represent the public.

According to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, as of August 2, 945 people are now confirmed killed by the junta. A total of 5474 people are currently under detention. 255 people have been sentenced in person, of them 26 have been sentenced to death (incl. 2 children). 1964 are evading arrest warrants. 118 people have been sentenced in absentia, of them 39 sentenced to death in absentia. In total 65 sentenced to death, in person and absentia.

Ne Win
Gen Ne Win caretaker government in 1960

Since March 1962 coup, two years after the parliamentary election held by Gen Ne Win caretaker government in 1960, where U Nu won with the majority, the military has ruled the country under different names which were Revolutionary Council, Burma Socialist Programme Party, State Law and Order Restoration Council, State Peace and Development Council, and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) from 1962 to 2016.

Since 2011, the military has agreed on multi-party election, establishment of federal democracy and so on but they have been mere lip-service and it never really intended to pull it through.

During the short period of ten years quasi-civilian-military rule, 5 years under the military-backed USDP Thein Sein government and 5 years under National League for Democracy (NLD) government, the military wasn’t able to spell out its version of federal union clearly. Instead it repeatedly referred to the military-drafted Constitution of 2008 as a basis to go, perhaps with some devolution of power to the states and regions, with strong central government.

Even though according to the constitution the military was allotted with 25 percent appointed seats in all levels of parliament, in Pyithu Hluttaw, Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, State and Region parliaments, including a free reign in home, defence and border affairs ministries, it still felt insecure only after 5 years of NLD quasi-civilian rule and staged a coup coup d’etat on February 1.

The pretext was that the NLD obtained votes illegally, allegations which were largely inconsistent, even though there could have been some irregularities, it was in no way widespread. It is clear the motive is the military has to get back all its political decision-making power, at least like during the era from 2011 to 2016, where USDP government was installed and the special privilege of the military given by the constitution stayed in tact.

In sum, the junta now headed by Gen Min Aung Hlaing as prime minister in the newly formed so-called caretaker government, will stop at nothing in order to maintain the military supremacy stance and its business empire. All the rest are just trappings and lies which the junta never has any intention to fulfil.

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