The Tatmadaw must work with the NLD

The Tatmadaw must be prepared to work closely and constructively with the NLD government for the nation to achieve peace, stability and development.

By SITHU AUNG MYINT | FRONTIER

The appointment for the first time in more than half a century of a civilian president chosen by MPs elected by the people is an historic event and a significant development in Myanmar politics.

The president-elect will appoint a government in what can be called the first phase of democratic reform. The process that culminated in the election of a civilian president involved hitches and problems, especially between the Tatmadaw and elected MPs. What are the problems and how should the Tatmadaw regard the incoming National League for Democracy government? This is what I would like to discuss this week.

Much attention was focused on the meetings between NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. No announcements were made about the talks, but it is known from reliable sources that Suu Kyi proposed the suspension of 59(f) – the clause in the Constitution that makes her ineligible for the presidency – and Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing demanded that the chief ministers of Yangon Region and Shan, Kachin and Rakhine states be military nominees.

The demands of each side were not granted and a warm atmosphere no longer exists between them.

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The failure of the negotiations was a factor in the decision by the NLD, through its Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than, to move forward the date of the presidential election in the Union Parliament from March 17 to March 10. In a speech at the Defence Services Academy on March 9, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing touched on the Tatmadaw’s relationship with the incoming government.

He said that in the first five years of multiparty democracy, the Tatmadaw had cooperated with the government to help it stay the course and much progress was made. Over the second five years, the Tatmadaw would do the same to help the incoming government but would not accept any detours from the course set by the 2008 Constitution. This can be interpreted as meaning he does not have much confidence in the incoming government and that his feelings towards it are cool.

Of the seven members of the parliamentary scrutiny committee that vetted candidates for the presidency, only the Tatmadaw MP withheld approval for the NLD nominees U Htin Kyaw and U Henry Van Thio.

The Tatmadaw representative said Htin Kyaw needed further scrutiny because he was not an MP and Henry Van Thio needed further checking because he had lived abroad. Despite being approved by six of the panel’s members, Htin Kyaw and Henry Van Thio may face a review of their qualifications to serve as president and vice-president as stipulated in the Constitution.

When the Union Parliament elected Htin Kyaw as president, Tatmadaw MP Brigadier Tin San Naing made a comment that was not constructive.

“We accept U Htin Kyaw,” he said. “He might be a good and able man. But … there must be no one above the president; he is the head of the government and the supreme leader. This is stipulated in the Constitution.”

Brig Tin San Naing was referring to Suu Kyi, who had famously said after the NLD’s landslide election victory that she would be the nation’s leader “above” the president.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s comment after Htin Kyaw was elected president was not welcoming, either. Despite congratulating Htin Kyaw and saying the Tatmadaw would work with him, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s tone was not as friendly as it has been with President U Thein Sein.

This is a time when Suu Kyi’s NLD government and the Tatmadaw must cooperate to run the country effectively. The Tatmadaw needs to recognise this situation and accept it.

The Tatmadaw needs to accept that the military dictatorships of former times did not bring peace to the country, only backwardness and poverty. Military rule made Myanmar citizens, as members of the international community, feel inferior and ashamed. The Tatmadaw needs to jump out of the shadow of dictatorship and authoritarianism.

The Tatmadaw needs to work closely and cooperatively with Suu Kyi, the NLD government and elected MPs. Only when that happens will peace, stability and development follow, and Myanmar will enjoy a better international image.

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