Govt, Military Relations 'Good': Govt Spokesman

By The Irrawaddy 5 October 2018

YANGON — A spokesman for the President’s Office said the government and military were on good terms, citing a forthcoming meeting between State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and selected leaders of the country’s ethnic armed organizations (EAOs).

Calling the meeting a “retreat” during a press conference on Friday, U Zaw Htay said the military chief’s participation was a clear sign that the military’s relations with the government were positive.

“Why would he be there if the relationship was not good?” he said.

The five-day meeting set to start on Oct. 15 in Poppa, a part of Mandalay Region famous for its lush green flora and dormant volcano, is a chance for the three sides to try and settle disagreements that have lately stalled the country’s peace process.

It will be the first time the top leaders of the government, military and EAOs will have sat at one table since the peace process was launched in 2011 under then-President Thein Sein.

U Zaw Htay said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing have had prior private meetings to discuss issues ranging from the International Criminal Court to the Rohingya crisis even though no press statements were issued.

“Apart from the ‘four eyes meetings,'” he said, referring to the pair’s private talks, “there were also discussions with the president and group meetings.”

The spokesman’s news of the unannounced meetings was a revelation. The last publicized meeting between the state counselor and military chief was in June to discuss the Rohingya crisis and was attended by 13 other military officers.

Before that, the two met three times in 2015 and 2016. Those meeting were made public.

In Myanmar, where the military plays a powerful role in politics, relations between the military chief and the country’s de facto leader are something of a political barometer for observers at home and abroad. In the wake of the international condemnation of the army for its late-2017 crackdown in northern Rakhine State, speculation mounted that the relationship had soured.