Interview (Part 2): Myanmar's Next President Must Be Able to 'Get Along With The Military'

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myanmar-interview-aug202015.jpg RFA Myanmar Service director Nancy Shwe interviews Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Naypyidaw, Aug. 20, 2015.

In Part Two of an interview with Nancy Shwe, director of RFA’s Myanmar Service, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander in Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, says the military will support as president anyone who is willing to work for the country but says that person must be able to “get along with the military” and should not have any foreign family members.

RFA:  Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), has said that national reconciliation is one of the NLD’s major objectives, and that the NLD will work for national reconciliation as a priority if it wins the election. What is your view of this, and do you have any advice on how this might be done?

MIN AUNG HLAING:  The most important thing is mutual trust. This is very important. Another important consideration is goodwill for the country. I believe in unity, peace, stability, and development, and these things are all connected . . . Once we have peace, stability and unity, we can then move forward with development. This is the responsibility of every citizen and every member of an ethnic group. I agree that we need national reconciliation, but I believe that this will follow automatically if we work together in trust.

RFA: With regard to national reconciliation, people have concerns about the military and its relations with other organizations and groups. How can the people and the military move forward together in safety and peace?

MIN AUNG HLAING:  In a multiparty system, we have to follow rules and discipline. We [in the military] have to do our job, and there will be no problem if we help people while doing our own work. The military is moving forward guided by rules and discipline. I also think that people’s opinion of the military is improving and is now much better than before. Everywhere, we can see people’s warmth toward us. We don’t hear anyone discussing the military with pessimism. If some people have personal feelings against us, I would like to say that I understand them and will open any door I can for them to solve their problems.

RFA: President Thein Sein has said he would like to continue to serve in office if the people want him to, and you yourself have said that you would be willing to serve as president if the people want this. According to the constitution, as military chief you already have the authority to appoint a vice president. Do you have a suitable person in mind? Who will be vice president after the election?

MIN AUNG HLAING: First of all, I didn’t say “I want to become president if the people support me.” What I said was I would think about it . . . I have enough experience to contribute to the country, but this would depend on the situation . . . We will have three candidates for vice president from the three groups in parliament—the Amyotha Hluttaw [upper house], the Pyithu Hluttaw [lower house], and the military MPs. The president will be selected from among these three. If we can find someone who wants to work for the benefit of the country and who can get along with the military, that person will be invaluable.

If President Thein Sein wants to serve for another term, he can do this with the help of his supporters. We [in the military] have nothing to say about this. We will give our support to anyone who wants to work in the interest of the country.

RFA: With regard to constitutional reform, the military is widely seen as a hard-line force resisting change. Can you explain why the military MPs rejected bills to amend Article 436, to change voting requirements to amend the constitution, and Article 59(f), which defines the requirements for presidential candidates?

MIN AUNG HLAING  [Reply edited for length]:  Regarding Article 59(f), we are bordered by the world’s two most populous countries--India with 1.2 billion people and China with a population of 1.3 billion. Throughout our history, we have faced problems with immigration, and we are still dealing with these. For a country with these problems to be peaceful and stable, whoever leads the nation should be a real citizen of Myanmar . . . It would be better if that person has no relatives—sons, daughters, in-laws, or grandchildren—who are foreigners. This is my own point of view.

Regarding Article 436, this concerns the 75 percent plus threshold vote to change or amend the constitution, and this is a controversial point because the military currently holds a [constitutionally guaranteed] 25 percent vote. One day this will be seen as a minor thing, and this article may well be changed some day.

RFA: Violations of human rights by the military, especially in the ethnic areas, are constantly reported each year by international organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. What are you doing about this?

MIN AUNG HLAING [Reply edited for length]: There is a code of ethics for soldiers, and discipline in the military is very strict . . . Especially regarding ethnic nationals, if anyone complains of a crime committed against them by a soldier, they can come to talk to us at any time.  We have resolved many of these cases in the past. I’m not saying that we don’t commit crimes or violate the rules. We do. But we take effective action against those who do these things . . . If no action is taken at lower levels of authority, complaints can be filed directly to me.  I will also take action against any senior officer for negligence in dealing with such crimes. I would like to say that we are serious about this.


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