Top general defends army’s power

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw), defended the large role the army plays in civilian politics. He went so far as to suggest a possible bid for the presidency in the future, according to an article in the Irrawaddy. Speaking at the Office of the Commander-in-Chief and National Defense College, the senior general argued that the role of the military in civilian politics was still necessary to maintain stability in the country.

The speech touched one of Myanmar’s most controversial political nerves. According to the 2008 constitution, the Tatmadaw automatically holds 25 percent of all seats in both houses of parliament. This gives the army an effective veto power over constitutional amendments, which requires a three-fourths majority vote. The military rarely uses its place in parliament to do anything other than defend its own autonomy and block changes to the constitution. Regardless, 2019 saw a growing popular movement in favor of constitutional reform, which was in turn met with pro-military demonstrations in Yangon.

The Tatmadaw’s mandated seats in parliament are only part of the issue. The 2008 constitution also grants the army a high degree of autonomy with very little civilian oversight. Some blame this lack of checks to military power for the mass clearance operations against Muslims in Rakhine State. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (whom the constitution also bars from holding the office of President) will soon travel to the Hague to defend Myanmar before the International Court of Justice.

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