Min Aung Hlaing, Burma’s Commander-in-Chief, Not Stepping Down

By The Irrawaddy 13 May 2016

NAYPYIDAW — Burma’s commander-in-chief said he did not plan to leave office, despite having reached the official retirement age of 60 years old, at a press conference in Naypyidaw on Friday evening, vowing to maintain his position for four more years.

“I would consider retiring probably around 2020 if certain goals are reached by then,” said Min Aung Hlaing in a rare meeting with the press. “For example, if nationwide peace is achieved, [I would consider retirement].”

He pledged to try to make peace with all ethnic armed groups within five years.

The senior-general was also asked whether the military lawmakers, who control 25 percent of the seats in the Union Parliament in accordance with the Constitution, would relinquish their place in the legislature if peace were achieved with Burma’s ethnic armed organizations. “If everything goes well, there will be an answer [to the question of military MPs],” he said. “It might be in accordance with the wishes of the people.”

Meanwhile, controversy over use of the word “Rohingya” has swirled in recent weeks in foreign and domestic media, among foreign embassies in Burma and within the ruling National League for Democracy government. But on this issue, the commander-in-chief was unequivocal: “As we have said before, there are no Rohingya [in Burma],” he said.

Min Aung Hlaing said the meeting with the media was convened in order to allow journalists the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to pose questions to the leaders of the country.

“This is a democratic practice,” he told reporters.

He added that he believed that some lower-ranking military officials might not satisfactorily answer all of the media’s questions and therefore sought to answer journalists’ questions directly.

Another concern many analysts have had about the ascent of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party is the power the military continues to hold.

But Min Aung Hlaing was very clear, if not entirely truthful in assessing the extent of the constitutional power he still holds: “The commander-in-chief is ranked below the president,” he said. “Contrary to what many assume, we are working together [with the civilian government].”