The chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in Rangoon Division, Aung Thein Linn, denies that he made controversial comments during an interview with Chinese publication Southern Weekend, according to the party’s general-secretary Htay Oo who spoke to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
Aung Thein Linn has been widely criticized in Burma after he was quoted by the liberal Guangzhou-based journal lambasting President Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi, the US, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Htay Oo said that he had spoken to Aung Thein Linn, a central executive member of the USDP and a former mayor of Rangoon, who assured him that his comments had been misconstrued and mistranslated in Southern Weekend.
“He [Aung Thein Linn] didn’t really remember what he said. He said it was not an official interview. That these were just informal comments,” said Htay Oo.
“He told me that if it transpires that he said something offensive, then he would take responsibility for his comments, and that the party could take action against him,” the USDP general-secretary said.
In an interview with Popular Myanmar News Journal on July 23, Aung Thein Linn said that the Chinese newspaper “perhaps misinterpreted his words.”
“I said that it is necessary to conduct an assessment of the Myitsone Dam project—for transparency’s sake. If the project harms people’s property and livelihoods, then nobody will be contracted to work on it,” he said; though the published interview quoted him as saying he opposed President Thein Sein’s decision to suspend the Myitsone Dam project, and that construction on the dam must be resumed.
In the published interview in Southern Weekend, Aung Thein Linn is asked about the public support for the NLD and Suu Kyi in Burma. He is quoted as saying: “They [people] are crazy. OK, she [Suu Kyi] is popular, but only because she is the daughter of Gen. Aung San. He is our national hero.”
Aung Thein Linn is also quoted as saying, “I don’t trust Ban Ki-moon, nor the UN. They are all the same. All they think of is to interfere with other countries’ internal affairs.”
Htay Oo insisted that whatever comments were made to Southern Weekend, Aung Thein Linn did not represent the USDP and his comments could not be taken as party policy.
Translations of the interview quickly went viral in Burma with many publications reproducing his comments and many social-networkers criticizing the USDP man.
According to Popular Myanmar News Journal, a group of 300 Burmese residents in Pakokku town in northern Burma’s Magwe Division planned to stage a public protest on July 30 against Aung Thein Linn, saying that his comments had “insulted the people of Burma.”
Other social-networkers suggested that if Aung Thein Linn had truly been misrepresented he would sue Southern Weekend.
From a military background, Aung Thein Linn was mayor of Rangoon from 2003 to 2011. Although roundly accused of vote-rigging in the November 2010 general election, he won a seat in the Lower House for the USDP representing South Okkalapa constituency.
The Irrawaddy reported on Aung Thein Linn in February 2011 in an article titled “Future Not Bright for Aung Thein Linn,” and noted that he was notorious for his ill-temper and insults.
“I built roads and dug wells for you all! Don’t forget that you owe me!” was the trademark greeting the Rangoon mayor would routinely level at members of the public when he attended a public event.