Tensions between Myanmar’s military and the National League for Democracy (NLD) were already building six years ago.
Among the disagreements were military-appointed lawmakers’ rejection of the vice-presidential nominee by the NLD and the State Counselor Bill, which was submitted to the Parliament to allow NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to run the newly elected government.
The NLD-dominated parliament approved the bill despite objections from military-appointed lawmakers.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is barred from the presidency under the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, was appointed to the newly created post of state counselor on April 6, 2016. She became the de-facto prime minister of the elected government following her landslide victory in the November 2015 general election.
It became clearer after the February 2021 coup that the military had always been deeply unhappy with the State Counselor Law.
Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing told his cabinet and state and regional chiefs on April 6 last year that the NLD bent the law to enact the law.
The state counselor position was ranked second after the president in the state protocol of the NLD government and was officially a higher rank than the military chief, who is ranked eighth. In reality, the commander-in-chief was always the most powerful government figure, controlling the key ministries of defense, home affairs and border affairs and holding a veto over constitutional changes.
“While the constitution specifies a set of qualifications for the president and the vice-presidents, the NLD bent the law and created the state counselor position, which ranked between the president and vice-presidents,” Min Aung Hlaing told his appointees.
Article 59(f) of the 2008 Constitution bars anyone whose spouse or children are foreign nationals from taking the presidency.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi demonstrated leadership skills during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing moral support and sharing health advice with the public online.
Min Aung Hlaing told the Russian news agency RIA last June that the State Counselor Law was enacted unlawfully and that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi did not meet the criteria to assume the presidency.
The NLD’s legal advisor U Ko Ni was credited with creating the position of state counselor for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
The position was crafted out of Article 217 of the Constitution, which allowed the Union Parliament to confer functions and powers upon any body or person.
U Ko Ni was assassinated in a plot involving ex-military officers in daylight outside Yangon International Airport in 2017. Many believe his assassination is related to the creation of the role of state counselor for the NLD.
The mastermind behind the assassination was former colonel Aung Win Khaing, who was last seen in Naypyitaw and remains at large.
Min Aung Hlaing was not the only person unhappy with the creation of the state counselor’s position.
During his meeting with military personnel and their families in Taunggyi, Shan State, after the coup, deputy junta leader Soe Win said the NLD democratically bullied military MPs and enacted the State Counselor Law despite the military’s objections.
Former admiral U Soe Than was a powerful minister in the military proxy U Thein Sein administration which lost power to the NLD. He was a parliamentarian for the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party when the NLD was in power.
In his book “The Second Democratic Government and Myanmar”, he writes that he had longed for military intervention “since a few days after the NLD took office” because he was angered by the party’s parliamentary activity, including enacting the State Counselor Law.
The NLD won a second overwhelming majority in the 2020 general election. Had Min Aung Hlaing not seized power on Feb. 1 last year using alleged electoral fraud as an excuse, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would have remained the state counselor. Instead, she is detained in a secret location near Naypyitaw and faces an array of charges.
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