YANGON — State Counsellor’s Office director general U Zaw Htay yesterday dismissed a report that the Tatmadaw chief had threatened a coup over the government’s handling of the crisis in Rakhine State, calling it ‘totally wrong’.
Mr Larry Jagan claimed last week in the Bangkok Post that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing had threatened a military coup, during a meeting on June 8 between members of the powerful National Defence and Security Council and other government representatives.
At the meeting, members of the civilian government proposed appointing a foreign national to a three-member commission of inquiry that would investigate alleged human rights violations in northern Rakhine State, he wrote.
Quoting unnamed sources “close to the army top brass,” Jagan claimed that Min Aung Hlaing “reacted angrily” to the proposal. “If you can’t manage the government, then the army will have to take back power,” he reportedly said. Jagan said it was not clear if the Tatmadaw chief meant the country as a whole, or simply Rakhine State.
Following the meeting, Jagan continued: “Troops were pulled back from the frontlines in major cities and operations halted in the border regions, apart from Rakhine, to focus efforts on an expected confrontation in Nay Pyi Taw”. He then conceded that the pullout “might also be the result of the rainy season, when the army usually stops operations due to tough conditions for combat”.
Zaw Htay confirmed to reporters in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday that the meeting’s attendees had discussed the formation of an investigation commission, among other topics, including border security and international relations.
“Largely all the leaders who attended discussed [these matters] calmly,” he said. “We were at the meeting as well. Larry Jagan wrote in the Bangkok Post that the commander-in-chief said he would mount a coup. I’d like to tell you what he wrote was totally wrong.”
He said members of the government had justified their decision to appoint a foreign national to the investigation commission. “Everyone, including the commander-in-chief and the vice commander-in-chief understood our explanation,” Zaw Htay said.
The matter was discussed, but there was no “severe” objection. “There was no angry speech on that day, there was no hint that a coup would arise and the meeting ended amicably,” he said, in apparent reference to Jagan’s claim that it had come to an abrupt end. Jagan did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.
Zaw Htay said he felt it was necessary to refute the article’s claims because of their potential to adversely affect the process of national reconciliation and democratic reform.
He did not address Jagan’s claim that the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy to Myanmar, Ms Christian Schraner Burgener, had acted as a peacemaker between the de facto civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing and, in so doing, had averted the potential coup.
However this may be addressed by the President’s Office, which has scheduled a press conference on Friday in Nay Pyi Taw to contest what it says are serious errors in the report.