RANGOON — The Burmese military’s commander-in-chief warned on Friday that the army will not tolerate the strong-arming of voters in national elections slated for later this year.
“I want to say that any disturbances to the stability of the state and the prevalence of law [and] any armed pressure or threats to voters won’t be allowed in the General Election,” Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said during a military parade in Naypyidaw to mark the 70th anniversary of Burma’s Armed Forces Day.
Though he didn’t elaborate on this remark, it was a possible warning to armed rebel groups to refrain from forcing voters in areas under their control to support certain political parties.
During the nearly 30-minute speech given to military columns participating in the morning parade, the military chief also said that ethnic armed groups currently in peace talks with the government should uphold their promises and utilize political means to solve political issues.
“In the implementation of a cease fire and peace process, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration [of ethnic armed groups] is essential,” Min Aung Hlaing said.
“National solidarity [and] national reconciliation… will be carried out without fail as the Tatmadaw is the Union Defence Services formed by ethnic people of the Union.”
His remarks on the peace process came as the latest round of negotiations for a nationwide ceasefire agreement are paused for a recess, with stakeholders and observers split on whether the long-awaited pact will be signed soon. Talks will resume in Rangoon on Mar. 30.
Friday’s parade was attended by senior military officials, lawmakers and international military attachés.
Although Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi attended the event in 2013 and 2014, she was absent on Friday, reportedly due to ill health.
The country’s “Navy Seals” joined Burma Army soldiers for the first time, marching in formation across a parade ground where tanks, armored personnel carriers, mobile radar systems and truck-mounted rockets were also on display.