Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Army Chief Repeats Vow to Respect Election Outcome, Pledges ‘No Coup’

Min Aung Hlaing repeated a vow Monday to respect the outcome of the Nov. 8 election, pledging the military would not intervene, regardless of the result.

RANGOON — Burma’s army chief repeated a vow on Monday to respect the outcome of the country’s Nov. 8 general election, pledging that the military would not intervene, regardless of the result.

“There were two coups in the country in 1962 and 1988. They were to fill a power vacuum at that time,” Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said at a press conference in Naypyidaw on Monday.

“But I personally dislike military takeovers. In short, I have no plans for a military coup [and] the military has no plans for it.”

Min Aung Hlaing also pledged to facilitate a free and fair vote at polling stations in military cantonment areas, while conceding there would be some security restrictions.

“Apart from the restrictions, we will stick to UEC regulations,” Min Aung Hlaing said at the press conference which followed a meeting with members of the Interim Press Council and local journalists.

He did not elaborate on what possible electoral restrictions may be imposed.

During the more than two-hour long meeting, the commander-in-chief fielded questions on a range of topics, including his recent visit to Israel, constitutional amendments, the ongoing nationwide ceasefire process and the controversial appointment of military personnel to civilian departments in recent weeks.

Regarding his trip to Israel earlier this month, Min Aung Hlaing said he discussed Israeli collaboration in helping to upgrade the Burma Army into a “standard army,” cooperation in technology and noncombat related training and on exploring ways to promote the relationship between the nations’ armed forces, according to a press release made available to the media.

The army chief told journalists that constitutional amendments would depend on the stability of the country, the state of the reform process and issues of ethnic conflict. He reemphasized that amendments must be made in accordance with Chapter 12 of the military-drafted charter.

The chapter contains Article 436(a) which stipulates that major amendments must be approved by more than 75 percent of lawmakers, effectively granting veto power to the military which holds a quarter of seats in the legislature.

On the peace process, Min Aung Hlaing expressed confidence that the nationwide ceasefire agreement would be signed soon and said the Burma Army was ready to join as a signatory.

He said recent fighting in northern Shan State was caused by ethnic rebels encroaching on areas under the control of government troops—a charge denied by ethnic armed groups.

On Monday, representatives from the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Restoration Council of Shan State—armed groups involved in ongoing clashes with the Burma Army—told The Irrawaddy that sporadic fighting in northern Shan State was recurring due to government troops entering rebel-held territory.

Regarding the appointment of military personnel to key positions within the bureaucracy, Min Aung Hlaing said the appointments were not initiated by the army but undertaken at the request of relevant ministries, with government approval.

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