Myanmar army urged to protect constitution
NAYPYITAW MYANMAR’S armed forces must protect the constitution which guarantees the military a “political leadership role”, the armed forces commander said on Tuesday, days ahead of a by-election in which prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi runs for parliament.
The comments by General Min Aung Hlaing, a protege of former dictator Than Shwe, were made during an annual armed forces day speech and come as Suu Kyi pushes to change the constitution, which was drawn up under military rule and which enshrines the military’s political role.
“Our Tatmadaw (armed forces), together with the entire people, have not only to respect the constitution, which is the lifeblood of the state, but also to safeguard it,” Min Aung Hlaing said at a parade in the capital, Naypyitaw.
“Our Tatmadaw will safeguard the constitution as a major duty in building a modern, developed, new democratic nation.” Suu Kyi, who spent a total of 15 years in detention for her fight against military rule, is running in Sunday’s by-election after an appeal by Myanmar’s year-old civilian government for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to end its boycott of the new political system.
Suu Kyi has told supporters she wants to change a constitution drafted by a militaryappointed convention and adopted in 2008 that she says will prevent the emergence of a real democracy.
One of the constitution’s objectives, listed on its opening page, is “enabling the Defence Services to be able to participate in the National political leadership role of the state”.
It provides for 25 percent of seats in legislative chambers and at least three cabinet posts to go to serving military personnel. It also allows for the president to grant full executive and judicial powers to the armed forces chief in a state of emergency.
The government wants Suu Kyi and the NLD on board to give more credibility to parliament, which is dominated by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was set up under military rule to promote its interests and is full of retired soldiers.
The USDP easily won a late 2010 general election amid opposition complaints of rigging.
Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest at the time, and her party boycotted the polls.