Burma’s Military Chief Says Armed Forces Will Respect Vote

By Aung Hla Tun 25 August 2015

NAYPYIDAW — Burma’s powerful commander-in-chief has reiterated that the military will respect the outcome of the Nov. 8 general election, seen as a crucial test of the country’s reform process.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said that the main concern of the armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, is that the vote is carried out fairly and that the result is respected by everyone—even if Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) wins a majority.

“We wouldn’t mind even if the NLD won in the next general election, as long as it is free and fair,” he told members of Burma’s Interim Press Council, a media support group, during a meeting on Monday.

“The Tatmadaw’s desire is to see the upcoming elections be held free and fair. We will approve and support the results announced by the Union Election Commission.”

Burma’s recent elections have been plagued by military interference.

In 1990 the NLD won in a landslide, but the vote was not recognized by the military. The 2010 ballot was widely seen as rigged and boycotted by the NLD.

Burma’s military ceded power to a quasi-civilian government in 2011, ending 49 years of military rule but the military still looms large in the country’s political arena.

A quarter of all of the country’s parliamentary seats are reserved for unelected military officers. Changes to Burma’s 2008 military-drafted Constitution require at least 75 percent of support from lawmakers, giving the military an effective veto power over changes to the charter. Efforts to lower this threshold of support failed in June.

Min Aung Hlaing said that the military would step back from this position “at an appropriate time.”

“It will change accordingly when peace, stability and tranquility prevail in the country,” he said.

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which contains a large number of former military officials, saw a major shake-up earlier this month when the party chairman, Shwe Mann, was dramatically ousted by President Thein Sein.

Min Aung Hlaing declined to comment on the moves, saying they were internal party affairs, but did say political party rifts could be damaging for citizens.

“To view it from an armed forces angle, it is not good for the country if there is a split in any major political party,” he said.

“It is the people who are normally affected by the impact, as our country has experienced in the past.”