A prominent monk from the ultra-nationalist fringe of Myanmar’s Buddhist clergy, Pauk Ko Taw, publicly criticized the country’s military ruler, Min Aung Hlaing, urging him to step aside and let his deputy, General Soe Win, take charge.
This unusual criticism comes as the Myanmar army grapples with a series of devastating defeats at the hands of ethnic insurgents, prompting erstwhile supporters to reevaluate their allegiance.
Pauk Ko Taw’s speech in Pyin Oo Lwin, a town near the prestigious Defence Services Academy, carries symbolic weight, signaling that even within the military’s traditional strongholds, support is waning. The historical connection between the military and the monkhood is evident, given the long-standing tradition of Burmese monks engaging in political activism, both for and against authorities.
While some monks have aligned with the military in defense of Buddhism and Burmese culture, others, like Pauk Ko Taw, are now questioning the leadership’s competence. The military’s association with controversial figures like Wirathu, who has been involved in setting up armed militia groups, adds complexity to the situation.
The recent battlefield setbacks against ethnic armed groups, particularly the Brotherhood Alliance in northern Shan State, have raised concerns about the military’s capabilities. These defeats, coupled with criticism from influential voices, including a prominent blogger branding Min Aung Hlaing as “incompetent,” are eroding the regime’s legitimacy.
Despite calls for leadership change and expressions of discontent, Min Aung Hlaing continues to maintain control over the military. The absence of a clear successor and the strategic sidelining of potential rivals showcase the leader’s adeptness at navigating internal challenges.
As the military grapples with unprecedented reversals and internal dissent, the potential for a broader breakdown in morale looms large. The outcome of battles in key regions like Lashio, Rakhine State, and Karenni State could determine the military’s fate and potentially lead to the implosion of the regime. The delicate balance between military control, public sentiment, and internal dynamics is now under intense scrutiny in Myanmar.