A former MP who once suggested that the best way to achieve peace in Burma was by annihilating ethnic armed groups has launched a new journal bearing his nickname.
The Bullet News Journal, published by “Bullet” Hla Swe, went into print for the first time on Wednesday with the motto, “To be free from bullets, let’s work towards peace”.
Hla Swe served as an upper house lawmaker from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) until April of this year, when the former ruling party ceded control of the government to the National League for Democracy (NLD).
In an interview with DVB in 2013, the former lieutenant colonel said he told his fellow lawmakers that if peace overtures towards the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) failed, the country’s military should use force to end the conflict.
“If the [KIO] can’t be extended an olive branch, then we should send them bullets instead,” he said.
He added: “How did the Second World War end? [It ended] because two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, forcing them to come and sign a peace treaty on an [American] boat.”
Hla Swe also courted controversy during the run-up to last year’s election, which the NLD won by a landslide, by playing on anti-Rohingya sentiment to win support for the USDP.
Speaking at a rally in a village in his home constituency in Magwe Division, he asked the assembled crowd if they supported calls to recognise the Rohingya — a Muslim minority living mainly in Arakan State — as citizens of Burma.
“People of the village of Bawpyin, let me ask you a question — would you agree to give citizenship to the Rohingya kalar?” he asked, using a derogatory term for people of South Asian descent.
In response to a resounding “No!” from the crowd, he said: “Well, I am delighted to know that the people of Bawpyin are on the same page as our president, USDP Chairman U Thein Sein.”
On the front page of its first issue, the new journal takes aim at the NLD’s Phyo Min Thein, with a headline suggesting that the former political prisoner has been ineffectual in his current role as chief minister of Rangoon Division.
But in a sign that it doesn’t intend to spare the deeply unpopular USDP, the journal also runs an article under the headline, “The ugly face of USDP is due to ex-leaders who are extremely rich”.