Military Warns Against ‘Illegal’ Charter Change Efforts

By The Irrawaddy 27 March 2019

YANGON—Myanmar military deputy chief Vice Senior General Soe Win warned that ongoing attempts to reform the Constitution must be constitutional to avoid “unnecessary political hardship and its spillover effects” in a speech to mark the nation’s 74th Armed Forces Day on Wednesday.

Commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was unable to deliver the speech this year due to a minor last-minute leg injury, according to the military (or Tatmadaw)’s information team. Armed Forces Day commemorations, including a major military parade, are held in Naypyitaw annually to mark the day the Burmese military began its fight against occupying Japanese forces in 1945.

“Democracy is a process bound by laws based on the people’s aspirations. It must also respect the desires of minority groups,” he said.

He warned that simply implementing the wishes of the majority, without considering whether it is correct or not, is illegal.

“This can not only create difficulties but also endanger the tranquility of those who want to practice democratic norms systemically, because it is an action that breaks rules and regulations,” the vice senior general said.

The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), led by State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is currently trying to make changes to the Constitution, which was drafted by the military and has been widely criticized as undemocratic.

The effort has met strong resistance from the military and its ally, the Union Solidarity and Development Party. They say the charter needs to be reformed but have complained that the approach taken by the NLD is unconstitutional.

In his speech, Vice Sen-Gen. Soe Win went on to condemn the Arakan Army’s deadly attacks on police outposts in Rakhine State in January. He said such attacks by the AA “impair the administrative mechanism” and vowed that the military would vanquish them” as they pose a threat to national sovereignty.

Fighting between government troops and the autonomy-seeking ethnic Arakanese armed group has been intense in recent months, with nearly 100 clashes occurring since the AA’s Jan. 4 attacks, according to the military.

“I would like to assert that the Tatmadaw will eliminate any armed insurgent group [in order to ensure] peace, tranquility and the rule of law in the Union,” Vice Sen-Gen. Soe Win said.

Despite the ongoing fighting, the deputy military chief also repeatedly urged ethnic armed organizations to negotiate with the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center and the Tatmadaw’s negotiation team. He reiterated the military’s promise to deliver peace by 2020.