Interview: Myanmar Army 'Has Vowed and Is Empowered to Protect the Constitution'

2016-02-03
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Myanmar Minister of Information Ye Htut  talks to the media in Yangon, May 18, 2015.
Myanmar Minister of Information Ye Htut talks to the media in Yangon, May 18, 2015.
AFP

Information Minister Ye Htut, 59, is the official spokesman of the outgoing administration of Myanmar President Thein Sein. On Feb. 3, Reporter Khin Khin Ei of RFA’s Myanmar Service spoke to Ye Htut, who is also a former military officer, about his country’s ongoing political transition following November elections, including reports that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will try to suspend or amend a constitutional provision that bars her from serving as president because her sons hold foreign nationality.

RFA: We hear the military is seeking to name the [ new government's] chief ministers in four states and regions. Is that true?

Ye Htut: We saw this on the Internet and in the media, but don’t know any details about it.

RFA: The NLD is talking about suspension of Article 59(f) of the Constitution. Will that happen?

Ye Htut: The Constitution is the highest law in the country, and the best way to make changes to it would be in accordance with the requirements for changes mentioned in the charter. The consequences wouldn’t be good for the country and the people if it is done for their whims for their own interests

RFA: Would this affect ties with the military?

Ye Htut: The Tatmadaw [Myanmar's military has vowed and is empowered to protect the Constitution, so if anything is not in accord with the Constitution, this will not be acceptable to the military. I’m saying this as an observer from the sidelines.

RFA: After the meeting between the commander-in-chief and Aung San Su Kyi, word came out that they are getting closer to make changes to Article 59(f).  What do you think of the military's relations with Aung San Su Kyi?

Ye Htut: The military has participated in the past five years in the transition of the country toward democracy.  They wouldn’t do anything more or less. In dealing with the new government by Aung San Su Kyi’s NLD, they would strictly adhere to the tasks given them in the Constitution.

RFA: In the latest sessions of the Hluttaw [lower house of parliament], some pointed out the absence of some elected USDP leaders. Was there anything to that?

Ye Htut: Those commentators did not understand the Constitution. When one is serving in a government position, one cannot be a Hluttaw representative. One cannot work in both simultaneously. Right now, they are busy with the government transition, and they took leave from the Hluttaw in accordance with the existing Hluttaw regulations.

RFA: How are preparations going for the transition?

Ye Htut: Our cooperation is very good, and I should say we have made progress as we plan to hand over everything by the end of February.

RFA: What about the detained students facing court charges. Can they be covered by the president’s amnesty?

Ye Htut: Under the powers given by the Constitution, the president’s amnesty concerns only those who have already been convicted and not those who are still facing charges in court.

Translated by Khin Maung Nyane.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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