Myanmar’s Ruling Party Vows to Reform Military in Election Manifesto
By San Yamin Aung 2 September 2020
YANGON—The National League for Democracy (NLD) said in its election manifesto, released late on Tuesday, that it will work to make sure the military’s first duty is the protection of citizens and that it upholds the policies of the country’s democratically elected government.
In Myanmar, the military has long been involved in politics, staging sporadic coups and ruling the country for more than five decades: as a caretaker government from 1958 to 1960 and as a military government from 1962 to 2011. From 2011 to early 2016, the military-proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party ruled the country, leading a quasi-civilian government.
Despite the fact that the democratically elected NLD government is now in power, the military still holds 25 percent of seats in the Parliament and three key ministerial positions: Defense, Home Affairs and Border Affairs—a privilege granted by the military-drafted Constitution.
Furthermore, the Myanmar military is internationally renowned for its ability to make money by establishing conglomerates operating businesses ranging from banks to breweries.
There has been a lot of political tension between the NLD and the military over the past four years, especially over the government’s refusal to call a meeting of the powerful, military-dominated National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) to discuss and decide national affairs. The military has also consistently resisted and rejected the NLD’s push in Parliament to amend the Constitution.
The military has accused the NLD of attempting to incite enmity between the armed forces and the people through its efforts at constitutional amendment.
Under the subject of “Defense and Security” in the manifesto, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD states that it would make the armed forces, or Tatmadaw, a trusted institution on which the people could rely.
While recognizing the military’s role in defending the state, it also pledges to develop the military in line with modern standards in terms of combat ability, and ensure that it is equipped with advanced technology.
NLD chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in a message to the public included in the manifesto that national reconciliation has always been the party’s top priority.
She said the party firmly adheres to the policy of nonviolence in the implementation of its objectives—preventing the re-emergence of an oppressive political system and establishing a democratic government.
“Our journey towards democracy is unfinished,” the chairperson said in the message, calling for the public’s support.
The 34-page manifesto published late Tuesday features three main election pledges: to address ethnic affairs and achieve internal peace; a constitution that ensures a genuine democratic federal union; and sustainable development.
The NLD also pledges to protect the rights of ethnic people; to form a corruption-free government; to establish a fair and impartial judiciary; and to amend, repeal and rewrite the existing laws to be in line with democratic standards, in relation to ethnic affairs, as well as the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government.
The NLD contested the 1990 general election as well as the 2012 by-elections and the 2015 general election. It won all of them in landslides, taking office after its victory in 2015.
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