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Myanmar army chief urges govt to call NDSC meeting


Myanmar army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the government should call a meeting of the long-adjourned National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), the country’s highest-level security authority, saying that it is too risky for “only one person” to make decisions for the country.

The army chief’s remarks on a wide range of issues, including the NDSC, the peace process and the military’s role in politics, were published in an exclusive interview with Russia’s Politic magazine last Friday.

“[It is] too dangerous for one person to be making decisions without consulting the relevant organizations and individuals for consideration. [It is] very difficult to get effective decision-making and actions,” said Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, possibly referring to Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is believed to have final say on important issues for the country.

In contrast to Myanmar’s previous government, the current National League for Democracy (NLD) administration has not called for a single meeting of the military-dominated NDSC. Though one high-level meeting with members of the NDSC was held last year, the government did not label it as an NDSC meeting, as it was not attended exclusively by council members but also included other senior government members. Under the previous government, the council met every two weeks.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing also said that national defense and security affairs are the spirits of the nation and thus “In these affairs, there is no [time to say] sorry. Once it is said, the sovereignty of the state will be already lost.”

He added that it is the responsibility of those in charge of the country to decide to call the NDSC to meet or not.

According to the 2008 Constitution, the military controls the six out of 11 seats on the council but the president has the power to make final decisions.

It includes five civilian leaders: the president, a vice president, the minister of foreign affairs and the speakers of the lower and upper houses. The military representatives include the army chief, a vice president nominated by the military, the deputy army chief and the ministers of defense, home affairs and border affairs.

The military, its allies in the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and a few other parties have urged the NLD government to hold an NDSC meeting.

In September 2019, the USDP and military-appointed lawmakers submitted a bill to amend the 2008 Constitution to expand the NDSC’s authority and grant the president power to dissolve the Parliament with the approval of the NDSC. The bill was later rejected.

A week after the bill was introduced, a military spokesman also urged that the NDSC should meet in regular sessions in order to analyze and evaluate the challenges facing the country and the international situation.

The NLD has tried to change the disproportionate ratio of civilian to military representation on the NDSC by proposing to add two deputy speakers for Parliament to the council. The NLD proposed a constitutional amendment to make the change during the Parliament’s vote on charter reform in March but the motion failed.

As the army chief shared his thoughts with the Russian media, he also highlighted how the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has failed to achieve peace despite the military announcing a nine-month ceasefire from Dec. 21, 2018 to Sept. 21, 2019.