Here he is, General Min. It’s tempting to call him a monster, but we don’t really know, do we. Nobody seems to know much about him. Maybe he is his wife’s or his mother’s puppet; women can be as vile as men, you know, as greedy and as manipulative. Maybe he is the puppet of his fabulously rich children. Or of some other general. All we can say with absolute certainty is that he is contemptible; the kind of creature you would want to crush under your boot, if you had a boot, that is, and if you lacked self-restraint. What a civilised person does, however, is to hand him over to an international criminal court, where he will undoubtedly be convicted. He will then spend the rest of his life in a clean prison cell, with a TV screen showing, again and again, year after year and in colour, the atrocities his troops commited against the population of Myanmar. Even in prison, he will be lucky to evade the fate of Libya’s handsome erstwhile President Muammar Gaddafi.
They say he was a retiring sort of fellow. Some sources use the word “taciturn. According to Reuters, he made annual applications to join the country’s military university, the Defence Services Academy (DSA), succeeding only at his third attempt in 1974. Reuters adds that according to a member of his DSA class, he was “not an outstanding student. Not a driven person, (but) not a lazy person…. He was promoted regularly and slowly”. The classmate said he had been surprised he had risen beyond the officer corps’ middle ranks.
Nikkei Asia quotes Nicholas Coppel, Australia’s former ambassador to Myanmar: “The senior general is not a listener – he talks and others listen.” Mr Coppel holds that the general’s “big-man management style” is due to “ignorance and arrogance…. the isolation that comes from being at the top.”
So how come this mediocre character reached the top? Who paved the way for him and why? You will not find the answer in this post, because I don’t know. Let me be quite frank: I know little about Myanmar. Never been there. Never intended to go there. You don’t visit countries that are committing genocide. So I must rely heavily on what I find on the net, not least on the insight of Mr David Scott Mathieson, a Senior Researcher in the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch.
Below is a long quote from Japan Times which explains the wealth in less legalese terms:
Through two highly secretive military-controlled behemoths — Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) — at least 133 companies in the country are wholly or partially overseen by generals, according to a report by Justice For Myanmar (JFM).
The opaque groups have their tentacles in industries as diverse as beer, tobacco, transportation, textiles, tourism and banking.
Much of the lucrative — and largely unregulated — jade and ruby trade is controlled by military-owned businesses.
Although Myanmar is the world’s largest producer of jade, and the trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars a year, only a very small part of the financial windfall ends up in state coffers — with most high-quality stones believed to be smuggled over the border into China.
Since 2011, the disaster-prone jade industry has remained “controlled by a network of military elites, drug lords and their cronies”, according to NGO Global Witness.
An MEHL subsidiary reportedly holds the largest number of jade mining licenses.
The company, Myanmar Imperial Jade Co. Ltd., was among the three gems entities slapped with U.S. sanctions Thursday.
MEHL has partnerships with companies in China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, among others.
It has enriched its shareholders in Myanmar, who — according to the conglomerate’s government filings — are all current or retired military officials.
I recommend reading the entire above-linked article from Japan Times. You might also want to take a look at the Asia Times expose of the assets belonging the general’s family members.
There is nothing like a Count Dracula to attract attention to a small corner of the earth. While Myanmar’s ethnic majority have not seemed very preoccupied by the fate of the Rohingyan minority, you cannot but admire the pluck of protesters’ peacefully going out to defy the soldiers that shoot them in the head by the tens every day.
And what about the soldiers, sons and brothers of the very protesters they are shooting. Wow! That country is really fucked up. So General Min has at least earned his country a lot of attention. When General Min and and his fellow generals, at some point in the inevitable future, sit in their prison cells or languish underground in their coffins, we, tourists of the world, will flock to Myanmar to honour the thousands and thousands of demonstrators and Rohingyans who lost their lives to the “ignorance and arrogance” and, allow me to add, the barbarity of the generals who have governed Myanmar ever since it gained its so-called independence in 1962.
Meanwhile I put it to you that what triggered the recent coup, was not electoral irregularities, not even, perhaps, that General Min resented the little lady with flowers in her hair. I suspect that when she won 83 – eighty-three – per cent of the vote, he and his ilk panicked. What happens now? they asked themselves. According to CNN, Mr David Scott Matieson suggests they thought “she has a mandate now to dilute our economic power and our constitutional power, and our immunity from prosecution. There is no way that we’re going to allow ourselves to be that vulnerable.”