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Farewell U Zaw Htay

By Jonathan Thang

Farewell U Zaw Htay: You are considered to be a good pro-reform mindset person!

U Zaw Htay, the man who plays an important role during former President U Thein Sein’s government. Without him, the process of engaging with international communities will not be speedy during the NLD-led civil government as it was during U Thein Sein’s administration period. He persuaded former President Thein Sein to engage with international communities in various fields, which laid the most important foundation for every successive government to come.

On Sunday, May 22, we were having a general discussion on Burma Politics with Dr. Ma Thu Za at our home dinner party. I was raising issues that what I worry about the most right now for some in Burma are U Zaw Htay (Spoke person of President Office), U Nay Myo Zin (former major in military and current political activist), and Cherry Htet (Personal bodyguard of DASSK). These 3 persons are not famous enough to be considered leaders but their role has a very important impact to damage the image of the military (The true cunning nature of military men on civilians and government officials was clearly seen on through their encounters). Therefore, I am afraid that they might disappear soon for various reasons. The rest activists who have not received media attention have already disappeared by being killed directly or indirectly by the Myanmar military. So we need to raise a concern about them in the media. Unfortunately, when I heard U Zaw Htay passed away the next morning, I really doubt the causes.

U Zaw Htay, the man who plays an important role during former President U Thein Sein’s government. Without him, the process of engaging with international communities will not be speedy during the NLD-led civil government as it was during U Thein Sein’s administration period.

According to my little research on him, I have discovered that he was eagerly involved in writing and advocating for President Thein Sein’s government’s willingness to restore a new relationship with international communities after a decade-long economic sanction and social isolation.

President Thein Sein seemed to be very sincere and genuinely wish to engage in his reform movement with the help of a lot of people around him and others. Among them, U Zaw Htay was one of the key trusted ones, who himself has written articles regarding building a new relationship with international communities and the need for a newly quasi-civilian government to become 100% civilian government with the help of international communities.

Post-2010 era, based on an infamous Nargis referendum the 2008 constitution has been legalized by the military, even though more than 70% of the population has rejected or did not participate in the process has become forcefully utilized to start a new administration, which was carefully designed by ex-general Than Shwe.

U Than Shwe, the one who is willing to protect 100% of the 2008 constitution was not because of willing to change into a true democracy in Burma. But to hold power from behind the scene as long as he could by playing divided power among his subordinates.

For him, it is most important to create a power balance so that no one can control fully military power as he has done in the past. Therefore, he picked Min Aung Hlaing (who is inexperienced enough compare to most of his seniors) to inherit military chief status, while many seniors have to hold different soft power positions in civilian offices (providing higher positions in administration structure in civil administration). U Than Shwe might think a young inexperienced new military chief will never dare to take a military coup nor be able to gather absolute power as he had in the past. His mistake was lacking in gathering enough background check-in details of Min Aung Hlaing, who would defy him later. Only the 2008 constitution can guarantee that Than Shwe can retire peacefully.

If we continue our main topic, U Zaw Htay might have been fed up with the bullying and injustice process within the military administration, as a result, he really reaches out to advocate strongly for the reform process of Thein Sein’s government. I personally believe now that U Zaw Htay might have been a genuine desire to be reformed, totally free from military involvement in civilian government. Even though I have nearly 2 hours of debate with him (in front of the Norwegian Government ministers at a State dinner party), on the reform process’s weak points and impossible to turn into a 100% civilian government unless the 2008 constitution is edited or proposed exact time frame of how long the military will be staying in parliament without contesting the election. We both were set to sit at the same table with various Ministers of the Norwegian government due to his pro-reform movement articles and my articles on the reform, which is more argument on “Reform is not purely genuine and it needs to change some from 2008 constitution as a guarantee of purely moving toward genuine reform.”

Zaw Htay was one of the most influential people in the reform process and became a Spoke person in the President’s office. He was even considered to be U Thien Sein’s political policies architecture.

In early 2011, I worked for a short period as “A Junior Political Researcher” at the office of the United Nations Association, Southern Norway. During that time, I wrote an article related to the reformation of Burma’s Political process; the flaws of the 2008 constitution, and the important role of the Norwegian Government to build a constructive engagement with the Myanmar Government. I wrote to be cautious carefully and reacted step by step rewarding trade deals and various aids as an incentive until certain policies in the 2008 constitution have completely changed. My article was published on UN’s web pages and in the global digest.

Later, I personally raised and discuss with the former Foreign Minister of Norway Espen Barth Eide (2012-2013 currently Minister of Climate & Environment) (https://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espen_Barth_Eide ) after current Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Ghar Store (transfer position from foreign minister to health Minister) of Norway, regarding my point of view and summarized the situation in Burma.

By the invitation of the Norwegian government, the Thein Sein government visited Norway and covered many investment agreements and cooperation projects, including clearing debts worth US dollars 560 million at World Bank/IMF. During the state dinner party, I was asked to raise issues related to my articles and U Zaw Htay’s reform outline. There, I gave remarks that unless the 2008 constitution is changed or re-edited the role of military involvement in politics, there is no guarantee of the military will never choose to make a coup nor 100% civilian government will ever exist.

U Zaw Htay claimed that the Thien Sein government is a genuine desire to make a change into a 100% civilian government and asked for help to reach that goal from international communities. Although his claim proved to be failed after Min Aung Hlaing make a coup on Feb. 1, 2021. But, U Zaw Htay personally has vowed and maintained to be a reformist.

He really proved his personal commitment to reform, once he raised the allegation of the military chief claiming election fraud cases and statement at a press that the “2020 Election is transparent and accepted by international observers as well as the people of Myanmar” and a second statement, “There is no other better one than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whom we can wait or hope to make National Peace Agreement with, therefore kindly cooperate under the leadership of DASSK”. These two statements alone are good enough for me to convince him that he can never be a puppet of the military circle nor never be able to co-exist with them. Therefore, I respect his boldness and humbly apologize for I didn’t believe in him at the Norwegian State dinner party on Feb 26, 2013.

Detailed articles will be posted once the time is right for the below issues: (The role of U Zaw Htay (aka) Hmu Zaw or Spoke person of the Former Myanmar President Office, ex-general Thein Sein Government, and pro-reform mindset person among an inner circle of military group. (one of those who have a balanced philosophy of thinking in the President’s Office are: U Yee Htut (former Information Minister), and U Aung Min (former head of Myanmar Peace Center). U Soe Thein is the black sheep who ruined everything from the beginning to the current military coup.)


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