All eyes on Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing as military seizes power

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Feb 02, 2021, 10:33 PM(IST)

File photo of Myanmar military junta leader Min Aung Hlaing Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Min Aung Hlaing steered clear of the political activism that was widespread at the time when he studied law at Yangon University in 1972-1974. He was a man of few words and normally kept a low profile.

Myanmar’s powerful military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, is in the spotlight after politicians from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party were detained and the army announced it was taking power.

Here are some key facts about the army chief:

RISE AND RISE

Min Aung Hlaing steered clear of the political activism that was widespread at the time when he studied law at Yangon University in 1972-1974. He was a man of few words and normally kept a low profile.

While fellow students joined demonstrations, Min Aung Hlaing made annual applications to join the premier military university, the Defence Services Academy (DSA), succeeding on his third attempt in 1974.

According to a member of his DSA class, who spoke to Reuters in 2016 and who still sees the army chief at annual class reunions, he was an average cadet.

Min Aung Hlaing took over the running of the military in 2011 as a transition to democracy began. Diplomats in Yangon said that by the onset of Suu Kyi’s first term in 2016, Min Aung Hlaing had transformed himself from taciturn soldier into a politician and public figure.

Min Aung Hlaing studied other political transitions, diplomats and observers have told Reuters, and has made much of the need to avoid the chaos seen in Libya and other Middle Eastern countries after regime change in 2011.

The commander-in-chief has never shown any sign he was prepared to give up the military’s 25% of seats in parliament nor of allowing any change to the clause in the constitution that bars Suu Kyi from becoming president.

The recent complaints by the army of irregularities in voter lists for a Nov. 8 general election which, as expected, delivered another sweeping victory to Suu Kyi’s party, have been accompanied by cryptic comments about abolishing the charter.

Min Aung Hlaing extended his term at the helm of the military for another five years in February 2016, a step that surprised observers who expected him to step aside that year during a regular army leadership reshuffle.

SANCTIONS

A 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims into neighbouring Bangladesh. UN investigators have said Myanmar’s military operation included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson and was executed with “genocidal intent”.

In response, the United States imposed sanctions on Min Aung Hlaing and three other military leaders in 2019 and several court cases in various international courts, including the International Court of Justice, are going on.

Also in 2019, UN investigators urged world leaders to impose targeted financial sanctions on companies linked to the military.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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