Senior General Min Aung Hlaing salutes during a Martyrs' Day ceremony in Yangon on July 19, 2020. (AFP)
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing salutes during a Martyrs' Day ceremony in Yangon on July 19, 2020. (AFP)

Tatmadaw chief’s rhetoric fuels fears of a coup

The military’s increasingly belligerent rhetoric on alleged election fraud is now raising the prospect of scrapping the constitution it itself wrote.


Myanmar’s military chief has raised the prospect of scrapping the country’s constitution as fears swirl about a possible coup by the Tatmadaw over electoral fraud concerns.

The military has for weeks alleged widespread voter irregularities in November’s election, which State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy won in a landslide.

The civilian administration has been in an uneasy power-sharing agreement with the generals since Myanmar’s first democratic election in a generation were held in 2015, as dictated by a 2008 junta-authored constitution.

A military spokesman on Tuesday refused to rule out the possibility of the Tatmadaw seizing total power to deal with what he called a political crisis.

And on Thursday Senior General Min Aung Hlaing – arguably Myanmar’s most powerful individual – appeared to echo that sentiment in a speech published in the military-run Myawady newspaper.

The Tatmadaw chief said the 2008 Constitution was “the mother law for all laws” and should be respected.

But he warned that in certain circumstances it could be “necessary to revoke the constitution”.

The comments follow repeated demands by the military for Myanmar’s election commission to release final voter lists from the November polls, a demand that has not been met.

The Tatmadaw says the lists are required to cross-check for irregularities. It alleges there were 8.6 million possible cases of voter fraud nationwide.

The polls were only the second democratic elections Myanmar has had since emerging in 2011 from a nearly five-decade military dictatorship.

Long a popular figure in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi’s run for power in historic 2015 elections was curbed by several constitutional provisions.

One provision barred any citizen married to a foreigner from becoming president. 

Aung San Suu Kyi, who married a British citizen, sidestepped that rule after the 2015 election win by becoming state counsellor – a de facto leadership role created by her government.

The NLD also then pushed for changes to the constitution in their first term, a process that has made little progress.

Political analyst Soe Myint Aung said the army saw “major loopholes (in the constitution) that has caused its detriment”.

“The coup rhetoric is not merely a bluff or empty threat,” he said.

Even if it does not orchestrate a “fully fledged” takeover of power, “it is likely the military will take some action unless the (election commission) and the government redress the election-related grievances.”

Aung San Suu Kyi has made no direct comment on the military’s polling complaints.

The last time the country saw its constitution revoked was in 1962 and 1988 – both when the military seized power and reinstated a junta government.

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