NAYPYITAW— Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, is sincerely working with hope and respect to achieve lasting peace and strengthen the country’s system of multiparty democracy, Defense Services commander-in-chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing said on Tuesday to mark the 73rd Armed Forces Day.
Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing also accused certain organizations of attacking the Tatmadaw by any means possible during the current period of political transition in an effort to erode the public’s trust in the military, undermine its political integrity, and create disunity within its ranks.
“The Tatmadaw has tried to lay the foundation needed for the formation of and transition to a multiparty democracy,” the Army chief said.
Dr Myo Nyunt, spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD), described the relationship between the nation’s de facto civilian leader, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the military leaders as normal, adding that he expected civilian-military ties to improve.
“We have hope [for a better civilian-military relationship]. I want to see more active collaboration. The current political situation calls for closer cooperation; only then can we overcome the existing challenges. But given the suspicion that exists, cooperation is about as effective as we could expect,” Dr Myo Nyunt said.
Unlike previous events to mark Armed Forces Day in which the Army chief has been driven around the parade ground in a vehicle to receive a salute, this year Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing stood still as saluting soldiers marched past him. No tanks or artillery were present at the parade ground. Only soldiers participated in the event.
Whatever government is in power, and whatever political system is in place, the main responsibility of the Tatmadaw is to engage in national politics and defend the country, the Army chief said. Additionally, it is responsible for protecting the Three Main National Causes, and the 2008 Constitution, he said.
The military chief acknowledged that freedom of expression is a part of democracy, but warned that it should be exercised in line with the law and with responsibility and accountability. Baseless and reckless expression can result in hatred, which can ruin the image of the country and pose barriers to nation-building, he said.
Since independence, stooges of political parties have used various means to undermine the Tatmadaw in an attempt to gain power, said the army chief. He called on service personnel to respond with awareness and consciousness to speeches and statements that aimed to disunite the Tatmadaw and tarnish its image.
He said the Tatmadaw was born out of Myanmar’s national independence struggle, and had served the people ever since.
General Ne Win fought insurgencies on various fronts after independence, and the Tatmadaw had been forced to take on the responsibilities of running the state in 1958, 1962 and 1988, as the country was at risk of disintegrating, he said. The Tatmadaw had laid the foundations for the establishment of democracy, he added.
On the peace process, the Tatmadaw chief warned that “It would be more practical to negotiate goals that are achievable, keeping long-term benefits in view, instead of claiming impossible ones.”
He urged “all of the people” to work hard and show the “spirit of Myanmar”—not racial and religious bias—in order to work for the country’s development in a cohesive union.
“Instead of pointing to the past and finding fault, it’s time to learn the lessons of the past and to work for the country’s development,” Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said.