Former Suu Kyi ally says no betrayal in taking Myanmar junta job

·2-min read
Myanmar citizens living in Thailand protest against the military coup outside Myanmar embassy in Bangkok

(Reuters) - A one-time ally of Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi said on Friday that she was no traitor for accepting a ministerial post with the junta that overthrew the elected leader this week.

Social welfare minister Thet Thet Khine told Reuters the new military government was inclusive and committed to democracy in one of the first interviews that any member of the new government has given since the coup on Monday.

"The fact the armed forces say they will continue to act according to the law, we have to welcome it gladly," she said. "I am not betraying the country."

Thet Thet Khine had fallen out with Suu Kyi in 2018, long before last year's election and had described the Nobel laureate as a "control freak" whose ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party could not fix Myanmar's problems.

The army overthrew Suu Kyi on Monday and detained her, drawing international condemnation that included a call from the U.N. Security Council call for the release of the Nobel Peace laureate and other detainees.

In Myanmar, the coup has prompted widespread anger and Thet Thet Khine, 53, has been branded a traitor in a torrent of online criticism that has brought calls for a boycott of her jewellery company.

She gave no comment when asked about working for the generals.

Thet Thet Khine split with the NLD in October 2019 and started her own party, the People's Pioneer Party, which failed to win a single seat in a November election won by the NLD in a landslide. In her constituency, she won only 7% of the vote.

The military says it intervened after what it said was a fraudulent election. The poll body and NLD rejected its accusations.

Thet Thet Khine said the military, widely known as the Tatmadaw, was managing the country until a fair election could be held and would continue the previous government's policies.

"The military is doing democratic acts and the civilian government that calls itself the democratic government did undemocratic things," she said.

"While the Tatmadaw is forming the government, they are working with inclusiveness. They invited ethnic groups, civilians, political parties and they assigned positions to people with competency."

Thet Thet Khine has defended the generals previously, dismissing accusations they orchestrated genocide against Rohingya Muslims and calling international legal action for alledged war crimes unnecessary.

Thet Thet Khine, who describes herself as an advocate for democracy, has also advocated a middle path that engages with the military, which ruled Myanmar for 49 years after a 1962 coup.

"For the military to back off gradually from politics, we have to help. If we fight them and chase them away, the country will not be at peace," she said.

"This is democratisation in progress. There are unavoidable difficulties in democratisation."

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)