People of 2006
covering burma and southeast asia
Monday, July 15, 2019


People of 2006

By The Irrawaddy DECEMBER, 2006 - VOLUME 14 NO.12

(Page 9 of 12)

For defending a political process that only reinforces a refined system of oppression in Burma, Taylor is one scholar the SPDC likes to talk to freely.

David Scott Mathieson works for Human Rights Watch in Thailand and a PhD candidate at Australian National University

Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan & Burma’s Mass Media

Intimate partners in political spin

Burmese journalists in Rangoon struggle daily with the country’s draconian restrictions on the press, which dictate what stories can and cannot be written. Some of Burma’s ruling generals, however, have enlisted the help of the country’s beleaguered news hounds to counter criticism of Burma’s military government in the international press.

Burma’s Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan appears to be the ringleader of these efforts, leading some critics in Rangoon to dub the cozy relationship as “Brokeback journalism”—a reference to a controversial 2006 American film about a love affair between two cowboys.

According to reports, Kyaw Hsan and the Ministry of Information in early 2006 gathered together a handful of editors and publishers in Burma to counter criticism of the country’s military regime by opposition and media groups in the West and exiles operating throughout the region.

This group is said to include Myat Khaing, Hein Latt, Tin Tun Oo, Ko Ko and Zan Zan. Collaborators with Kyaw Hsan include owners of Burma’s largest media organizations, such as E Empire Media and MK Media, whose editor is said to lead the group.

Apart from these two groups, two more organizations have also played a key role in the country’s media: Eleven Media Group and Myanmar Partners Think Tank Group. Like E Empire Media and MK Media, both operate close to the regime’s inner circle.

Eleven Media Group is said to have enlisted Maj Tint Swe, director of Burma’s official censorship body, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Board, as a consultant before launching its Weekly Eleven News Journal. It is believed that Tint Swe receives a consultant fee from the group, which currently publishes four weekly journals and is seeking permission to run a daily newspaper.

Myanmar Partners Think Tank Group publishes two weekly journals, The Voice, Khit Myanmar, as well as the monthly Living Color magazine, whose former publisher was Ye Naing Win, son of deposed premier, Gen Khin Nyunt.

Burma’s elite—and heavily censored—media groups are forced to follow the junta’s party line, while some seem to do so out of genuine support for Burma’s military government, but they manage to remain successful.

Kyaw Hsan’s handpicked editors run some of the country’s most egregious propaganda rags, but they can occasionally produce informative pieces that may not report the truth, but provide some interesting clues about developments in Burma.

—Kyaw Zwa Moe

U Thaung

Than Shwe’s wing man

There are not many people who can influence Burma’s absolute monarch, Snr-Gen Than Shwe. We can identify one of this small group—U Thaung, the science and technology and labor minister who has weekly meetings with Than Shwe and who offers “advice” to his boss. He is the person who advised Than Shwe to build a nuclear reactor.

A former ambassador to the US in the early 90s, and an Intake 1 graduate of Burma’s once prestigious Defense Services Academy, U Thaung was highly influential in urging the regime to embark on the “road map” to “disciplined democracy” and for pressuring—or attempting to eliminate— international aid groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Labour Organization.

Staunchly xenophobic, U Thaung is widely disliked and disrespected by foreign NGOs and diplomats based in Burma. Thus, his nickname, “Neo-Ne Winist,” referring to Burma’s late dictator Ne Win. Critics say he retains all of Ne Win’s secretive and paranoid attitudes toward the international community.

Worse, he’s in a state of denial. When he meets foreign missions, his mantra is “Burma has no forced labor,” and “Everything in the country is fine.”

But U Thaung has maintained connections at the UN, and he still has friends in Washington, DC, who try to influence Burma policy, as well as good connections with PR firms in the US captial. The regime has used such spin doctors in the past to counter Burma’s vocal critics.

U Thaung’s recent activities include organizing UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari’s second visit to Burma. As soon as Gambari arrived in Rangoon, U Thaung snatched him up and set the UN envoy’s entire schedule, effectively nullifying the purpose of the visit.

But, having U Thaung in the regime might be good for those who want to see change in Burma. Many observers say it’s U Thaung’s advice that will lead to the collapse of the Than Shwe regime.

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