RANGOON — Burma’s military chief has cautioned military personnel and their families to support the “correct” candidates in the Nov. 8 general election and advised a vote for candidates “who can protect race and religion” and is free from foreign influence.
Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s remarks, made to a meeting of ranking officers at the Naypyidaw Command, did not mention any specific candidates in his speech. They are likely a reference to National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, who was married to a British national and whose children are British citizens.
“Military members should consider choosing a person who will benefit the country and region, who has the four outlooks—political, economic, administrative and defence—who can safeguard Our Three Main National Causes, who understands and has sympathy for the military, who can correctly and systematically protect race and religion, who is free from any influence of external organizations or foreigners,” said the commander-in-chief at the Tuesday meeting, according to the state-run Myanma Alin newspaper.
Min Aung Hlaing’s pointed reference to race and religion echoes the public advocacy of Ma Ba Tha, the Buddhist nationalist monk organization that successfully pushed the Burmese government to pass a legislative package restricting interfaith marriage, polygamy and religious conversions, as well as giving the government new powers to restrict population growth. The four laws were widely considered to be directed against Burma’s Muslim minority.
In September, Ma Ba Tha members used celebrations commemorating the passage of the laws to urge crowds not to vote for the NLD.
Burma’s military has an estimated 500,000 personnel. With the addition of family members, who in many constituencies have been ordered to vote in military cantonments, the number of military votes is likely over 1 million people, out of an estimated 32 million eligible voters.