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Ultranationalist Monk U Wirathu Among Pro-Regime Figures Honored by Myanmar Junta


From top left: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Hideo Watanabe, Wirathu, Serge Pun, Zaw Win Shein, Khin Yi, Yin Yin Nwe and Soe Thane.

Ultranationalist monk U Wirathu and Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu are among the recipients of the Myanmar regime’s honorary titles in recent days.

The junta statement praised the cooperation for Myanmar’s peace, development and prosperity of the recipients, which also included Shoigu’s deputy Alexander Fomin, Japan-Myanmar Association chairman Hideo Watanabe and various businessmen.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) government banned U Wirathu, once dubbed by Time magazine as the “Buddhist Bin Laden”, from delivering sermons for a year due to his racial and religious hate speech.

Once the prominent leader of the Patriotic Association of Myanmar or Ma Ba Tha, the monk faced a sedition charge in 2019 for remarks about State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and spent a year as a fugitive before he turned himself in to the authorities in November 2020.

When the monk was released from prison in October 2021 he condemned the anti-regime resistance groups. The regime rewarded him with the Thiri Pyanchi title, which honors those who have performed with excellence for the country’s greatness.

Nationalists consecrated the monk on November 17, Myanmar’s National Day, in Naypyitaw.

Russia is the major arms supplier for the regime and has been deepening bilateral ties since the 2021 coup.

Shoigu and Fomin have been the focal point in military cooperation and publicly supported the coup. Shoigu was awarded the Sithu title and his deputy was named Thiri Pyanchi.

Alexander Ostrovsky from the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation of Russia was awarded the “excellent administrative performance” medal.

“Thiri Pyanchi” Watanabe has said the coup was legal and urged Japanese businessmen to invest in military-ruled Myanmar. He is known for his close ties to the regime and “requested” the release of US journalist Denny Fenster, according to junta media.

Other recipients included: Yoma Bank chairman U Theim Wai, also known as Serge Pun; Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry president U Zaw Min Wai; former general Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo; President’s Office minister U Soe Thane from President Thein Sein’s government who publicly supported the coup; and A Bank chairman Zaw U Win Shein.

Min Aung Hlaing handed the Thiri Pyanchi to his son Aung Pyae Sone.

Late businessman U Thein Tun, also known as Pepsi Thein Tun for his role in bringing the US drinks giant to the country in 1990, was posthumously named Theikpa Kyawswa for his work developing Burmese literature.

T Khun Myat, who served as Lower House speaker under the NLD and still works at his parliamentary office in Naypyitaw, and Khin Yi, the former immigration minister and current chairman of the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party, were awarded titles.

Min Aung Hlaing’s advisors Dr. Yin Yin Nwe, Daw Yin Yin Oo, Dr. Salai Ngun Cung Lian, Daw Khin Oo Hlaing, retired colonel Htein Lin, defence ministry adviser and former police colonel Sitt Aye and various political party leaders were handed the Thiri Pyanchi.