Myanmar Military MP Echoes Dictator, Suggests Current Democracy ‘Chaotic’

By Htet Naing Zaw 16 September 2019

NAYPYITAW—In an address to an event marking the International Day of Democracy in Naypyitaw on Sunday, a military appointee to the Lower House of Parliament implied that the country’s current democracy is “chaotic.”

“Myanmar’s democracy must be a disciplined one,” said Lieutenant Colonel Kyaw Moe Aung in his address. “It must be a regulated democracy [practiced in accordance with] legal provisions and procedures. If it is not a disciplined democracy, and if one stretches the laws as one pleases, [democracy] can be chaotic,” he told the members of the press.

“Regulated democracy,” sometimes translated from Burmese as “discipline-flourishing democracy,” is a term coined by the military regime of former dictator Senior General Than Shwe and used by his regime in their rhetorical pledges to establish democracy in Myanmar. But cynical observers have suggested the term was nothing more than a euphemism for military rule behind a democratic façade, or a democracy guided by the military leadership.

Sen-Gen Than Shwe ruled Myanmar from 1992 to 2011, after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising toppled the one-party regime of the previous dictator, General Ne Win.

Lt-Col Kyaw Moe Aung’s comments suggest that without the military, Myanmar could not have a successful democracy.

Under Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution, the Myanmar military controls 25 percent of seats in both houses of the Union Parliament and constitutional amendments require the approval of more than 75 percent of lawmakers.

Other provisions also give the chief of the military power to assume direct and absolute control in the event of a national “emergency,” a condition which could include a popular uprising or any other threat to the military’s de facto supremacy.

In January, the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party began taking steps to amend the undemocratic Constitution. The NLD government created the Charter Amendment Committee in Parliament to examine the entire Constitution and submit a draft amendment bill to Parliament. The committee has so far compiled more than 3,700 recommendations for changes from a range of parties, though many politicians from ethnic parties have criticized the process. The recommendations include removing the military from Parliament and reducing the role of its commander-in-chief in politics.

The military and military-backed representatives, including members of the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, have raised strong objections to the formation of the committee and called its procedures “unconstitutional.”

Lt-Col Kyaw Moe Aung used his speech on the International Day of Democracy to emphasize the need for the military to continue its role in Myanmar’s democracy. “Given the current situation and ongoing conflicts in our country, I believe [the democratic transition] will be smooth only if the Tatmadaw continues to cooperate,” he said.

Lawmakers from ethnic parties who spoke at the event called for dialogue between the government, the Myanmar military and ethnic leaders in order to advance the country’s democratic transition.

President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged continued public participation in the establishment of a federal democratic union.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.