Myanmar junta declares support for Niger military coup

August 6 issues of junta newspapers carried a propaganda article arguing that the Niger and Myanmar armed forces had staged coups not because of their thirst for power, but to protect sovereignty.

The article argues that the military takeover was necessary in Niger because its former colonial ruler France still wields both political and economic influence over the African country. Niger gained independence from France in 1960.

The op-ed stretches the comparison even further by describing the now ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government as colonial rule.

It also steals former US President Donald Trump’s slogan, ‘American First,’ saying when it comes to national interests, it must always be ‘Myanmar First’ and ‘Niger First.’

Some seasoned diplomats from the  junta’s Foreign Ministry are disappointed about the support for Niger’s putsch expressed in the article. But they dare not complain openly for fear of reprisal from their boss, Min Aung Hlaing.

Such support blatantly violates Myanmar’s independent, active and non-aligned policy, they say.

However, this is not the first time the junta has violated the country’s long-standing foreign policy. The regime abandoned non-alignment when it backed Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

In attempting to justify its coup, the regime used the article to paint Australian economist Sean Turnell, who served as economic advisor to the now jailed civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as a villian. The article cites the appointment of over 90 foreigner advisors including Turnell as evidence of external influence on the NLD government.

It adds that Turnell was often seen together with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and his position as an economic advisor gave him access to confidential information about the state.

Turnell was also a member of the Myanmar Development Institute (MDI), an economic think tank established by the NLD government in 2017, with the stated purpose of supporting the government in the formulating economic policies through robust and reliable policy research.

The article argues that the MDI was partly financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), while personnel from American business magnate George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and US-based advocacy group National Endowment for Democracy were always around Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. It claims this shows that Myanmar’s political mechanism was under the indirect control of the US State Department.

The article adds that as economic advisor to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Turnell had unrestricted access to information about Myanmar’s economy for five years.

These accusations are not new, having been made previously in books written by fake reformist Soe Thane, a minister in U Thein Sein’s military-proxy administration who fooled the world into thinking that Myanmar’s transition to democracy was irreversible.

Turnell was released in November last year after 21 months in junta detention and now serves as an advisor to the central bank of the parallel civilian National Unity Government (NUG).

The article says the NUG has taken on Turnell because the economics professor has in-depth knowledge about key economic sectors as well as the major sources of foreign currency income for Myanmar.

The junta prosecuted and jailed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, former finance and planning ministers U Kyaw Win, U Soe Win, and deputy minister U Hset Aung along with Turnell for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act by appointing Turnell as a government advisor.

The regime has released all of the accused except Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

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