Myanmar Military Chief Warns Constitution Should Be Revoked If Laws Not Followed

By The Irrawaddy 28 January 2021

The head of Myanmar’s armed forces said the military-drafted 2008 Constitution should be revoked if its laws are not being followed, during a video address to senior officer trainees at the National Defense College on Wednesday.

Commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces, “needs to abide by the Constitution,” which is the “mother of the law”. He said they would respect all existing laws which are “not beyond the 2008 Constitution.”

“If one does not follow the law, such a law must be revoked. I mean if it is the Constitution, it is necessary to revoke the Constitution. If one does not follow the law, the Constitution must be revoked,” he told the officers.

His address followed military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun’s refusal, during a press conference on Tuesday, to rule out the possibility of a coup. The spokesman’s comments drew criticism from a number of public figures, who pointed out that if the military staged a coup, it would violate its self-drafted charter.

The senior general maintained that, “The 2008 Constitution is effective. I’d like to note that it is a very important basic factor in politics. No one should be negligent [of this].” So, you all have knowledge about legal affairs, as well as an outlook about legal affairs.”

He warned that each section of the law has a purpose and a meaning, adding that it is important not to interpret them as one pleases. “Applying the law based on one’s own ideas may cause harm rather than being effective.”

He cited the invalidation of Myanmar’s previous two constitutions under military juntas following coups d’etats. Historically, he said, the 1947 Constitution was canceled under the Revolutionary Council, and the 1974 Constitution was revoked by the previous military leadership under its State Law and Order Restoration Council.

This is the first time the army chief has referred to revoking the charter. He did not elaborate further.

Kachin Baptist Convention president Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson, who met the senior general in early December, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, “We are concerned [about the military’s comments], as the senior general earlier said he would dare to do anything.” Dr. Hkalam Samson was referring to the commander-in-chief’s pledge to the military’s proxy political parties ahead of last year’s general election that there is “nothing I won’t dare to do,” after the parties’ leaders expressed fears that the vote might not be fair. The military chief also told them he was monitoring all political developments for anything that could have a negative impact on the country, the people or the future of the military.

Dr. Hkalam Samson said that in light of those earlier remarks, the military’s comments this week were alarming for the majority of the Myanmar public.

He asked whether Myanmar’s leaders really cared about achieving peace in the country. “If everyone wants to achieve peace, we can all negotiate and cooperate. We are anxiously waiting for the answer,” he said.

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