Army Chief Denies Military Meddling in Ruling Party Reshuffle

By The Irrawaddy 21 August 2015

RANGOON — The chief of Burma’s armed forces on Thursday sought to quash speculation of the military’s involvement in last week’s surprise ruling party reshuffle, saying the army did not meddle in internal party politics.

“It’s the party’s affairs and we have nothing to do with it,” Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing told Radio Free Asia when asked if the military had backed President Thein Sein during the Union Solidarity and Development Party’s recent internal shakeup that saw Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann dumped from the party leadership.

“Not any single person from the military was involved in it,” Min Aung Hlaing said, adding that information suggesting otherwise was simply speculation.

Many observers have described Shwe Mann’s shock demotion as the result of a power struggle between the Speaker and President Thein Sein.

Burma’s Commander-in-Chief told RFA that it was the military’s duty to support the government but when it came to party matters, the armed forces stayed out of it.

Thein Sein was party chairman before being elected president in 2011. As Burma’s Constitution bars the president from involvement in party activities, Thein Sein appointed Shwe Mann to act in the role from October 2012.

The USDP headquarters in Naypyidaw was surrounded by security forces on the night of August 12 and it soon emerged that Shwe Mann and those considered allies had been purged from the party’s leadership.

Former vice chairman Htay Oo now serves as joint chairman alongside Thein Sein as the party looks ahead to the country’s general election on November 8.