Nearly 1,000 residents of Aunglan, Magwe Division, protested on Monday to demand the resignation of Ohn Myint, Burma’s Minister of Livestock Breeding, Fisheries and Rural Development.
The minister is currently the subject of a Parliamentary investigative proposal after making threats to “slap” and imprison citizens who inquired about the government’s water access initiatives in Thityargauk, Magwe, during a 28 January visit.
A video of the minister’s rant soon went viral, in which he tells villagers that, “if you oppose the government, you go to jail and only come out when we’re out of office,” and that he would “dare to slap anyone in the face”. The comments sparked a protest on 3 February in Rangoon where demonstrators gathered on the steps of City Hall demanding that the minister slap them as promised.
Ohn Myint declared on DVB Burmese, however, that he did not employ offensive language to the villagers.
“I didn’t utter a single curse word – I was only talking energetically just like now… You can ask people who were there if I ever said a curse word – I did not at all. I never cursed,” he said, though the original video features comments ranging from, “I don’t give a f–k about anyone” to “Let those bastards write whatever they want and I’ll flip my longyi at them!”
Aye Myint, who organised Monday’s demonstration, said the rally was carried out despite the denial of a public assembly permit by the town’s local police.
Attendees chanted slogans calling for the minister’s resignation and abolishment of Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, a controversial provision that requires government approval for any public gathering of five or more people, which has landed many activists in jail in recent years.
While the demonstration was held without a permit, at time of writing no arrests have been made in relation to the event.
An emergency proposal was submitted to the Parliament’s lower house on 4 February, urging the government to take immediate action against the minister for his remarks to villagers in Thityargauk as well as a similar incident in Tenasserim Division on 25 October 2013.
Information Minister Aung Kyi has expressed commitment to investigate the incident to determine whether Ohn Myint’s comments were made in “good faith or in bad”.
Ohn Myint is a former military general and a member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. The minister is no stranger to scandal; he has been accused of similar tactless behaviour in Tenasserim, and was implicated by Kachin activist Bauk Ja for his role in leveling what she called “bogus charges” against her last year.