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Myanmar military will respect constitution, says Commander-in-Chief

DIGEST-Myan-01-02-2021

The office of Myanmar’s military chief announced on Saturday that the armed forces will respect the Constitution and act lawfully, in an apparent effort to ease the ongoing political tension between the government and military over electoral disputes and the perceived threat of a coup.

Since early last week, Myanmar has been gripped by speculation that another military takeover was on the way. Military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun refused, during a press conference on Tuesday, to rule out the possibility of a coup if the military’s claims of mass fraud in the November election were not addressed. The following day, military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told his subordinates the military-drafted 2008 Constitution should be revoked if its laws are not being followed. Military officials had complained about the government’s silence on their fraud claims, so the senior general’s remark was widely interpreted as a threat to stage a coup, as a military takeover would likely mean the abolition of the Constitution.

The fears only escalated when a meeting between the government and military representatives to try and resolve the crisis over the election failed, with the government rejecting the armed forces’ demands, which included the abolition of the Union Election Commission (UEC), the government-appointed electoral body.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Office of the Commander in Chief accused the media and other organizations of misinterpreting military officials’ words by reporting that the armed forces intended to abolish the charter.

It said the commander-in-chief’s comments that the charter could be revoked if its laws were not being followed were simply intended to make sure the trainees understood the nature of the Constitution.

“However, the news media and other organizations made misleading reports, analyses and statements without respecting the commander-in-chief’s full speech,” it said.

“The military will act lawfully while safeguarding the Constitution,” it added.

Yangon-based political analyst U Yan Myo Thein said Saturday’s statement would serve as an early step to ease the ongoing tension.

“As Myanmar has been through coups d’etat, it’s no wonder that people have that kind of fear,” he said, referring to the concerns that another military takeover was imminent.

U Myint Kyaw, a member of the Myanmar Press Council, said he didn’t totally agree with the accusation that the media had misinterpreted the military chief’s speech.

“It happened because there is no channel available for the media to make clarifications, such as [by asking], ‘Did you precisely mean this?’ If reporters have questions, they have to save them until the military holds a press conference,” he explained.

“Officials should take this as a lesson that a regular communication channel is needed for confirmation. If not, the media will continue to be blamed,” he added.

The military has a designated spokesperson, but he rarely takes questions outside of press conferences.