Min Aung Hlaing at an honors ceremony to mark Myanmar’s Independence Day in January 2022. / Cincds
Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has squandered more than seven billion kyats (approximately US$33.3 million) at least of public funds over the past year on titles and medals that he conferred on over 3,600 individuals.
For many Myanmar people, the honors are part of Min Aung Hlaing’s efforts to ensure he triumphs in the general election he plans to stage next year. Others think the power-mad dictator is simply on an ego trip.
Historically, the practice of conferring honors was used by Myanmar’s monarchs to guarantee allegiance from their subjects. The British colonial government also used titles to solicit support from ethnic leaders in the then Burma.
But no one in Myanmar’s long history has awarded as many titles and medals as Min Aung Hlaing has done this year. In doing so, he has cheapened the entire honors system, as well as wasting public money as recipients of honors receive gold along with their titles.
The junta boss conferred titles on 1,290 people on Myanmar’s Independence Day on January 4 this year, 877 people on Resistance Day on March 27, 146 people on Myanmar’s New Year’s Day on April 17, and 1,390 more on November 17, for a total of 3,412 individuals.
Regime spokesperson Major-General Zaw Min Tun wrongly announced the figure as 4,312 at the junta’s November 19 press conference, with pro-regime media repeating that figure.
Hundreds more people received titles in the four days after November 19, bringing the total number of recipients to 3,603.
Min Aung Hlaing also awarded himself two titles on April 17: Sadoe Thiri Thudhamma – The Most Glorious Order of Truth – and Sadoe Maha Thray Sithu, the Order of the Union of Myanmar, thus ensuring he received gold from the public purse.
The Sadoe Thiri Thudhamma title comes with a medal made with nine ticals of gold and a salwe, or belt, which goes across the right shoulder and chest, made with 31 ticals of gold. The medal also features a ruby with a diameter of 8.8 mm surrounded by a further eight rubies measuring 5.8 mm.
With one tical of gold currently worth two million kyats according to the military regime’s reference rate and over 3,600 people receiving titles and gold, the junta chief has wasted over seven billion kyats.
Myanmar’s present-day titles have been awarded since the country’s independence in 1948. Famous recipients include leaders and politicians from the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League-era such as U Nu, U Kyaw Nyein and U Ba Swe, as well as military dictators Ne Win, Saw Maung, Than Shwe and Min Aung Hlaing, the scholar Dr. Maung Maung who worked for Ne Win’s regime and former junta members Sein Lwin, Khin Yi and Soe Thane.
Foreign accomplices of the military regime have also received honors, such as Russia’s defense minister and his deputy, along with the ultranationalist monk U Wirathu and pro-regime ethnic armed organization leaders like Yawd Serk, the Shan State Army – South chief. Individuals from the world of business and culture have also been given titles.
The regime has also conferred honors on Christian, Hindu and Islam faith leaders, saying they deserve credit for their relentless cooperation in the development, peace and prosperity of the country.
To display his magnanimity, Min Aung Hlaing also gave titles to ministers and deputy ministers of the now ousted National League for Democracy government.
Hundreds of the titles were awarded posthumously, while other individuals, like the junta boss, received more than one honor.
While Min Aung Hlaing has been squandering public funds as if they are his personal inheritance, the regime chief has been preaching thriftiness to Myanmar people, urging them to consume less cooking oil and fuel as he seeks to cut the amount of US dollars the junta is spending.
Min Aung Hlaing will celebrate the 75th edition of Myanmar’s Independence Day in the capital Naypyitaw on January 4 next year, when it is believed he will confer honors on hundreds more people.