Myanmar not ready for reduced military role in Parliament: Army chief

YANGON: Myanmar’s military chief feels his country is not ready for a reduced military role in Parliament. In an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing said the military needs to be in Parliament because the country is still a young democracy.

The current Constitution mandates a 25 percent military representation in Parliament. Military officers occupy one quarter of the elected seats in Parliament. But under the Constitution, they are appointed and not elected by the people.

Citizens are calling for that clause, known as section 436, to be amended. The military chief however is reluctant to do so at this stage of Myanmar’s transition.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said: “It’s been only about four years. We are still a young democracy. When we are moving towards a multi-party democratic system it needs to be a strong system. The military representatives in Parliament only give advice in the legislative process. They can never make decisions.”

“It will depend a lot on the country’s unity, its peace and stability. To specify an exact time is difficult,” he said, referring to the call to amend section 436.

But that uncertainty is making many uneasy. Some feel the 25 percent military representation will hinder Myanmar’s democratization process.

Said political analyst Dr Yan Myo Thein: “Most of the Myanmar people are worried about who will make the decision on the assessment of Myanmar’s maturity on the democratisation process, and when the process will end.

“The military’s 25 percent representation in the Parliament is not a solution. The real solution is for the military to perform its major duties of safeguarding and protecting the state and the people, out of the Parliament and not inside the Parliament, and not direct involvement of the military officers in the Parliament.”

Outside of Parliament, the 59-year-old military chief’s name has been tossed up as a potential presidential candidate, as he nears the retirement age of 60.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said: “About becoming President, I will decide, depending on the situation of the times. If I turn my attention to (politics) now, it is likely to weaken the job I’m doing. Right now it is too early to make a decision and talk about it.”

The military chief however did not rule out the possibility of entering the political arena. Recently, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing also started to slowly lift the veil of secrecy often associated with the military, by communicating with the media and acknowledging the need to be more in touch with the people – signs that his contributions may not end with his retirement from the military.

Source : Channel News Asia

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