Myanmar’s Military Refuses to Comment on Chief’s Retirement

By Htet Naing Zaw 1 December 2020

Naypyitaw — Myanmar’s military has not revealed whether its chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, will step down next year when he turns 65, the retirement age.

Military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun evaded questions on the subject during a press conference in Naypyitaw on Friday.

Under a 2014 Defense Department Council amendment, the retirement age of the military chief and deputy chief is 65.

“The party that won the election is now preparing to form the government. We don’t know how the political landscape will develop. Only after the government is formed will we have a clear answer to your question,” Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun said in response to The Irrawaddy’s question. “The Tatmadaw [military] will act in line with the 2008 Constitution and not overstep it.”

A defense council ruling in 1973 allowed officers to serve as long as the Tatmadaw needs them. However, the instruction was amended in 2014 during the democratic transition, then Lieutenant General Mya Tun Oo told the media in Yangon in 2016.

Article 20(b) of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution says the military has the right to independently administer all affairs of the armed forces.

And Article 291 stipulates that military laws shall be applied to its personnel because the nature of military service differs from civilian duties.

Under the Constitution, the president shall appoint the military chief based on the proposal and approval of the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) in which the military holds six positions, said political analyst Dr. Yan Myo Thein.

“The military chief’s retirement date completely depends on the decision of the Tatmadaw and not the government,” he said.

Analysts suggest that Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, like his predecessor Snr-Gen Than Shwe and former general turned president Thein Sein, will make a deal with the National League for Democracy (NLD) government and take other measures to protect himself after his retirement.

“As the military spokesman said, his retirement will depend on the developments in the political landscape. If he can make a deal with the NLD, he may retire. We don’t know how the new political landscape will develop,” said Dr. Yan Myo Thein.

Observers say frank, face-to-face discussions between the Tatmadaw and NLD will result in interesting changes in the peace process, possible constitutional amendments and economic rehabilitation in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

In 1974 aged 18, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing joined the Defense Services Academy. He was promoted to brigadier general in 2002 and commandant of the Defense Services Academy the following year. He headed the Western Command from 2004.

He was promoted to lieutenant general as the head of the Bureau of Special Operations in 2008. Two years later, he was appointed chief of the general staff, in charge of the army, navy and air force. In 2011, he became the commander-in-chief.

When asked who will succeed Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun said: “The Tatmadaw has a hierarchal system. There is a clear policy about promotion. We can’t say who will be the next military chief.”

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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