Former Myanmar President Thein Sein, has drawn criticism from political observers and rights activists after calling on voters in the oncoming 2020 elections to vote for candidates who will protect the military and the country from what he calls “neocolonialism” in the name of human rights.
After calling 2019 a year “filled with terror” in the form of abductions, thefts, murders, robberies, and rapes, Thein Sein warned that the country faces the danger of neocolonialism from foreign critics of Myanmar military atrocities against ethnic minorities.
“Because of this neocolonialism, our country is at risk of expansionism by foreigners who use ideologies like democracy and human rights to promote their agenda,” he said during the speech.
Thein Sein, who served as president from 2011 to 2015 under the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and is credited with paving the way for a civilian-led government, made the comments on January 05 at the party’s headquarters in the capital Naypyidaw.
In a speech on the current situation in Myanmar, the 74-year-old retired army general also listed qualities that the electorate should look for in candidates running for election.
“It is common knowledge that they are using all kinds of tactics to carve out our sovereign territories, to swallow up our race and majority religion, and to paralyze the military which has been defending the country,” he said and appealed for voters to support pro-army parties and candidates in general elections at the end of 2020.
As president, Thein Sein implemented a series of reforms to push Myanmar towards democracy, including ending media censorship and freeing political prisoners from jail, though the changes lost steam late in his administration.
Myanmar has come under heavy criticism by the international community over the military’s mistreatment of ethnic minorities in the country’s far-flung regions, especially in Rakhine state where soldiers brutally attacked Rohingya Muslim communities in 2017. The country and its civilian and military leaders are facing legal action on genocide charges in three international courts.
Sai Nyunt Lwin, vice chairman of the Shan National League for Democracy, said Thein Sein is wrong to blame Western countries for Myanmar’s current ills.
“He should not blame a single entity for all the problems, but rather recognize them as an outcome of misconduct by successive governments,” he added.
Activist Nickey Diamond from the Southeast Asia-based group Fortify Rights said Thein Sein’s words were those of a dictator.
“In Thein Sein’s speech, he accused foreign countries of using democracy and human rights to promote neocolonialism,” he said. “These are the words of dictators.”
Diamond went on to say that it was “no surprise” that the former military general wanted to disgrace the concepts of democracy and human rights.
“Now as we all are trying to nurture the young democracy, these former generals are trying to interrupt. This shows their true colour,” he said.
Politician Nyan Win, who serves on the Central Executive Committee of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) and is Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal attorney, suggested that Thein Sein’s speech is an indication of an attempted political comeback.
“In one word, he was campaigning for the election,” he said. “So far, no one has been allowed to campaign. We haven’t received an announcement from the Union Election Commission yet about the election, so it is illegal to begin campaigning now. ” (Source: RFA)