Army Chief Says Ethnic Conflicts Must End for Burma’s Development

Myanmar, Burma, Army, tatmadaw, Min Aung Hlaing, Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing delivers a speech at a parade in Naypyidaw to mark Armed Forces Day, the anniversary of Burma taking up arms against the occupying Japanese. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

NAYPYIDAW — Burma’s military chief said during an annual military celebration Thursday that eliminating ethnic armed conflicts is the most important factor for the country, and reiterated his support for ongoing negotiations toward a nationwide ceasefire.

In his speech at the 69th Armed Forces Day parade in Naypyidaw, commemorating the day the Burmese army took up arms against Japanese fascist forces on March 27, 1945, the commander-in-chief of Burma’s armed forces Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing stressed the importance of peace and stability in bringing development to the country.

To mark the event, 9,009 Burma Army soldiers marched in five columns at a parade ground in Naypyidaw, where the military also displayed some of its tanks, armored personnel carriers, mobile radar systems and truck-mounted rockets.

The military chief warned that political dialogue with ethnic armed groups should not take place until a ceasefire is signed. He argued that any agreements made without a ceasefire could breakdown, leading to renewed conflict and delays in the peace process.

“The nationwide ceasefire is important for our eternal peace, so all ethnic armed groups must be legalized by all means in the achievement of this process,” he said.

Since independence in 1948, the Burma Army has fought border wars with ethnic groups such as the Kachin, Shan and Karen, which have pressed for greater autonomy or even full independence.

President Thein Sein’s government, which took office in 2011, has been pushing a peace process, and has brought 16 of the country’s ethnic armed groups to negotiations over a nationwide ceasefire agreement. Over the same period, however, at times intense fighting between the Burma Army and rebels in Kachin State and northern Shan State has displaced tens of thousands of civilians.

Min Aung Hlaing’s speech came as there are concerns that the peace process is stalling. Talks have been repeatedly delayed and some ethnic armed groups—the ethnic Palaung militia, the Wa and the Restoration Council of Shan State, for instance—are not fully participating in the process. The government has said, however, that it plans to hold a meeting to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement next month.

In his 31-minute-long speech at the parade—attended by senior military officials, Burma’s main opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, lawmakers and international military attachés—the Burmese commander-in-chief said the stability and cohesion of the country are the most important matters.

“Thus, may I urge you to be aware of your words and deeds that will reflect negative images on our union solidarity and peace,” he said.

He also boasted that the Tatmadaw—the name for Burma’s military—had laid down the infrastructure on which the country was now becoming democratic, and has arranged for a smooth transition. But he also hinted of the army’s continuing role in national politics.

“Our Tamadaw will strongly work to implement a disciplined democratic system,” he said.

Min Aung Hlaing is not the only one who this week publicly addressed the military’s role in Burma’s political future. On Wednesday morning, Thein Sein gave a speech to mark the third anniversary of his reformist government, in which he insisted that the military still has a political role to play in Burma during the democratic transition and the completion of the peace process.

In response to the president’s remarks, Suu Kyi said that the role of the military must be to support a civilian political system. “I’d rather see the army as professionals who the people love. [And] the peace process can be solved with political means,” the National League for Democracy leader said.

Speaking about the controversial 2008 Constitution, Min Aung Hlaing said the charter is not designed only for one party, one organization, one ethnic group and the military, but was approved by 26.7 million voters.

“We have to respect the desire of the voters, 92.48 percent of the whole population. The reform [of the charter] must be done following the law prescribed in [the Constitution’s] Chapter 12: Reforming of the Constitution,” he said, referring to the part of the charter that gives the military an effective veto over constitutional amendments.

The Constitution was drafted by the military government and approved by a referendum in 2008 that was widely seen as rigged, and a campaign is now underway, led by Suu Kyi, to amend it ahead of elections in 2015. The current Constitution guarantees the military a role in politics and a quarter of Parliamentary seats, bars Suu Kyi from becoming president and is widely opposed by Burma’s ethnic minorities.

13 Responses to Army Chief Says Ethnic Conflicts Must End for Burma’s Development

  1. Shame on him. He does not understand the role of military for a sovereign nation. Military is to defend the nation from foreign invasion. Constitution and other laws are supposed to be handled by Department of Justice. If Min Aung Hlaing is trying to interfere the nation’s Constitution and the other laws, the nation will always be a sick one. Thein Sein is yielding too much power to military and he is not the man who is in-charge. How long we will see this sickness? Executive Branch and Legislative Branch must do their job sidelining military to do its own duty which is to defend the nation from foreign invasion. Chinese influx into Myanmar and Mandalay is now becoming a Chinese city. Bagladeshi Bengali people are flocking into Arakan. This invasion is so alarming. Where is Tatmadaw to defend our Union? Suu Kyi mentioned it many times. Myanmar government is just a failed one until today. Chinese people who are holding both Myanmar and Chinese citizenship are travelling back and forth between China and Myanmar. Shame on this idiot government.

  2. Min Aung Hlaing does not know what he is talking about. Ne Win and Than Shwe tried to solve Myanmar’s political problems. Military offensive will never silence the problems. Min Aung Hlaing better learns and go back to his barrack for good. He is not serving us but Than Shwe’s family.

  3. There were about 150,000 Japanese soldiers in Burma in the WW II. Aung San had only about 1500 soldiers. The Japanese military was defeated by the Allied Troops after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed with Atomic Bombs. So, the Japanese troop withdrew from all frontlines. In Burma, many unarmed Japanese soldiers were withdrawing from Burma too. Those unarmed Japanese soldiers were shot to death or butchered by the Burmese cowardly. That was what the Myanmar military is claiming victory over the Japan. There was no way 1500 Burmese soldiers could have upper hand on the Japanese military which had 150,000 soldiers in Burma. Aung San brought the Japanese military into Burma. But the Burmese people chased them when the Japanese were heading home and killed many unarmed Japanese soldier. I feel so ashamed of the Burmese crookedness. Min Aung Hlaing shamelessly mentioned in his speech about this.

    • Dear Sai Sai
      Thank for your history how Bama army were coward in the aspect of killing unarmed brave Japanese soldiers who just obeyed their King order.
      However, you might forget the crucial role of Chinese nationalist army in the battle of Myikyina against Japanese army. It is the real road map to Burmese independence. Chinese side now claimed that Chinese army was in the real main role upon conquering brave Japanese army now. One Kachin said they conquered upon Japanese invasion in Burma was earlier than G-Aung san who revolved Japanese occupation on 27th March.

      See the following links regarding to the involvement of Chinese nationalist army in Myikyina battle.

  4. The Union army was transformed into army of one man by Ne Win and inherited by Than Shwe, then Min Aung Hlaing. So, the current military is not of the Union. If the military is of the Union, ethnics must not be put under the boots of soldiers. hundreds of thousands of ethnics’ lives have been killed by soldiers because these soldiers are not of the Union but of the dictators. Rapists, murderers and torturers do not deserve to be called Union army.

  5. The Constitution is the highest law of the nation. If the constitution itself says that military is to enforce and safeguard the law, it is absolutely wrong. Supreme Court must be the highest body to interpret the law and Justice Department must enforce the law. Guns and bullets must not interpret or enforce the law. Myanmar Constitution is terribly wrong if Min Aung Hlaing is the top law enforcer.

  6. child soldier ming aung hlaing
    we all Burmese are fed up with your democratic disciplines to continue to cheat all ethnics with the slogan of faked cease-fire agreements, agreements for 60 years now.
    We do not trust your and fox Tamadaw ( bama army) because you claim that 2008 bama military favored nargic constitution is democratically implemented.
    You also claim that bama soldier can enjoy political as well as casual killing right in Burma. In that sense, it is not world class moral and ethical soldier. It is so called rapist, robber and unfair, unequal opportunists from your notorious defense acadamy. Your bama army political strategies are how to kill all ethnics, local Muslim, how to suppress DASSK, ming ko naing, U win tin.
    Your Buddhinization and bamanization will bring Burma into 2 pieces very soon if you continue to look down/kill all ethnics.

  7. Leaders must have vision and wisdom. Min Aung Hlaing has none. Nada. Whatever he says tells us that he is nobody but an idiot. The one who promoted him to lead the military is even worse.

  8. What caused ethnics’ armed conflict? Min Aung Hlaing knowing ignored the cause. The cause of political problem. We have not seen peace in the Union for six decades because the disease has been cured with the wrong medicines. Min Aung Hlaing is trying to use that same wrong medicines. Political disease must be cured with political medicines. Once we solve political problems, peace will come in. No one wants to fight and fight and fight. Ethnics are not bad peoples if Myanmar people stop cheating them. Thein Sein’s tone and Min Aung Hlaing’s tone are signaling that there is no guarantee for genuine democracy even after ceasefire agreement. Ceasefire agreement can happen but unless political agreement is installed, conflict can re-ignite anytime. If Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing do not know how to build genuine democracy in the Union, they better handover power to Suu Kyi. She can bring peace in the Union and there will be no more conflict in the land.

  9. Well! It was written by military regime and the military is trying to protect it to block off democracy. Both Executive and Legislative Branches are controlled by military while Judicial Branch is doing nothing. So, the rule of law is almost non-existent. Military and military related people are taking all the meat and only the dry bones are left for the public. This is Thein Sein’s way of democracy.

  10. Let me get this straight : As for me he is always new kid on the block.LOL.

  11. Burma Army Chef says “Ethnic Conflicts Must End for Burma’s Development”
    so why you order your soldiers to go and fight? I do not understand what Army Chef says if he wants PEACE & DEVELOP Burma bring up to table and settle it not go to their land and force to be your way. They (Ethnics) are not enemy of Burma & live same land. There should be equal benefit.
    Please think how to kind them and leave it your good name in history.

  12. Since the bygone days of wars waged by Burmese kings, the nation is stuck in 1st gear. War, decline and collapse. Over and over again;

    The country needs to advance to higher gears; Institutions of trust, law, accountability, structures of governance without war and threat of violence.

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