Myanmar military’s attempts to defame Suu Kyi as corrupt have failed

President U Win Myint and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. / The Irrawaddy

By The Irrawaddy May 17, 2022

Six years ago, army chiefs and top officials of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) launched a mission to smear the League leader National Democracy (NLD) Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD personalities.

Their mission began after the NLD won a landslide victory in the 2015 general election. Today, after last year’s coup, the mission continues.

Prior to the 2015 poll, military and USDP leaders deliberately inflamed religious and racial sentiments to prevent an outright victory for the NLD in the election. Often, the NLD was portrayed as a pro-Muslim party whose rise to power would spell the downfall of Buddhism in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Nationalist groups like the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, have engaged in campaigns to slander the NLD, amid a growing wave of Buddhist nationalism in the country.

Their actions have had some impact on the NLD, but not to the extent of undermining public confidence in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, or reducing public love, respect and support for the woman who dedicated her life for the cause of democracy. People who wanted change voted for her and the NLD in the 2015 election.

After the poll, the military and USDP leaders reviewed the USDP’s defeat. They realized that people were supporting the NLD because of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s reputation and prestige.

Since then, they have systematically attempted to defame Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders. They believe that if they can tarnish a politician’s name, the public’s trust in him will diminish.

Army officers from the Office of Military Security Affairs and Special Branch Police were assigned to monitor NLD ministers and legislators. The Office of Military Security Affairs has also been tasked with spreading doctored narratives and fake news, mixed with real facts about NLD ministers and lawmakers, on social media.

In cooperation with so-called Myanmar experts who had returned from foreign countries to Myanmar, military leaders spread misinformation about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD leaders among Burmese living abroad.

In addition, media agencies have been created for this purpose. The Silent Talk media outlet, run by former military intelligence officer Ye Moe Oo, was sponsored by a pro-military businessman. Admiral Moe Aung funded The Fifth Wave media outlet and the Thayninga Institute of Strategic Studies, a think tank formed by former military officers, according to those who worked for those outlets.

Funded by some USDP leaders, People Media and Bullet Journal, headed by former military officer U Hla Swe, are well-known outlets that primarily featured news stories and opinion pieces deemed defamatory of leaders and lawmakers of the NLD. Some reports were true, but some were falsified.

These military- and USDP-sponsored media kept a low profile under the NLD government. But since the coup, they have been out in the open asking pro-military rule questions at junta press conferences.

Through these outlets and Facebook, which is virtually synonymous with the Internet in Myanmar, the military and USDP have been spreading false stories that the peace process and the economy have barely progressed under the government of the NLD.

The Office of Military Security Affairs and Special Branch sought any information about NLD members that could damage the party’s reputation. They then passed the information on to military-linked media who turned it into stories mixed with misinformation.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD leaders have kept their noses clean during their tenure. Former President U Htin Kyaw handed an envelope containing the list of his property to the Union Parliament when he took office, and he did not take it back when he resigned so that his fortune before and after his presidency can be verified. However, USDP Chairman U Thein Sein returned to his envelope when he left office.

During official trips abroad, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint never used money from public funds for themselves and returned any excess funds with receipts and financial statements.

Under the NLD government, businessmen who usually accompanied senior government officials on visits to foreign countries under the previous government were not allowed to join government delegations.

Government officials are entitled to a fuel quota provided monthly from state funds. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her government leaders always returned their monthly dues.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has shown zero tolerance for corruption and extramarital affairs among ministers in her government. Lawmakers who have had affairs or been involved in sex scandals have not been selected as candidates in the 2020 general election.

The NLD government has also reformed the Anti-Corruption Commission and amended the Anti-Corruption Act to make it tougher on bribery and corruption. As a result, departments long known to be corrupt saw a significant increase in revenue.

Revenue from municipal works, which is a major source of revenue for regional and state governments, nearly tripled in revenue under U Thein Sein’s government. These revenues have benefited the country’s infrastructure.

In the 2020 general election, the NLD repeated its 2015 victory. But the military seized power on the pretext that the election was tainted with fraud. He then made further attempts to destroy Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s reputation.

His power is not in arms and his wealth is not in money. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s strength lies in the support and esteem given to her by the public.

The military accused her of corruption and imprisoned her to defame her. He also charged NLD party and government leaders under the Anti-Corruption Act and put them behind bars.

In one of the corruption cases brought against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she was accused of accepting gold and US dollars from the former chief minister of the Yangon region, U Phyo Min Thein. She was sentenced to prison, even though there was no evidence. U Phyo Min Thein, who is too ill to remain in prison, was forced to testify against her. His wife allegedly took poison because she did not want to make a false statement. But she was saved by the military regime.

The army chiefs who accused Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of corruption are among the wealthiest people in Myanmar. The son and daughter of junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing are now on the list of the richest people in Myanmar after their father’s coup.

The descendants of other military leaders as well as USDP leaders are also very wealthy. But their official salaries are chicken feed compared to the value of the cheapest luxury car in their fleet of vehicles.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi only has one house which she inherited from her parents. President U Win Myint doesn’t even own a house.

But the military and USDP leaders have luxury homes in Yangon, Naypyitaw and Pyin Oo Lwin, and fleets of luxury cars.

Those who have amassed material wealth through dishonest means have charged and imprisoned Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is only rich through integrity. They attempted to defame Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and undermine public trust in her. But the people of Myanmar do not believe his lies.

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