Myanmar military allays coup fears, says it will protect constitution - GulfToday

Myanmar military allays coup fears, says it will protect constitution


A police checkpoint on the way to the congress compound ahead of the new parliament opening in Naypyitaw. Reuters

Gulf Today Report

More than a dozen embassies, including the US and EU delegation, urged Myanmar to "adhere to democratic norms" on Friday, joining the UN in a chorus of international concern about a possible coup.

Myanmar's military on Saturday said it would protect and abide by the constitution and act according to law, in a move that could allay concerns in the country that the armed forces might attempt to seize power, according to Reuters.


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Myanmar is just a decade out of nearly 50 years of military rule, with a nascent democracy governed under a junta-authored constitution which dictates power-sharing between the civilian administration and the country's generals.

The statement comes a day after United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Western embassies in Myanmar expressed serious concerns about the possibility of army intervention in Myanmar, a country ruled by the military for 49 years after a 1962 coup.

Myanmar soldiers parade during an event. File photo

The military, known locally as the Tatmadaw, said recent remarks by its commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, about abolishing the constitution had been misinterpreted.

For weeks, the powerful military has alleged widespread voter irregularities in November's election, which Aung San Suu Kyi's ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide.

Its call for voter list verification ramped up this week, with an army spokesman on Tuesday refusing to rule out the possibility of a military takeover to deal with what he called a political crisis.

Fears grew after army chief General Min Aung Hlaing -- arguably Myanmar's most powerful individual -- appeared to echo the sentiment Wednesday, when he said the country's constitution could be "revoked" under certain circumstances.

The newly elected MPs are expected to begin sitting in parliament on February 1.

People walk in front of parliament compound buildings in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Friday. Thar Byaw/Reuters

NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters the party wanted the military to be an organisation "that accepts the people's desire regarding the election".

Political tensions escalated this week when a military spokesman declined to rule out a coup, just days ahead of a new parliament convening, and warned the armed forces could "take action" if its complaints about vote fraud were not addressed.

Myanmar-based analyst Richard Horsey said an imminent coup now seemed unlikely.

"It appears that Myanmar military has stepped back from its coup threat," he said on Twitter. "How to interpret that, and what it means for stability going forward, depends on the behind the scenes details that aren't clear yet."

Myanmar's election commission on Thursday rejected the military's allegations of vote fraud, saying there were no errors big enough to affect the credibility of the vote.

The army's repeated allegations of irregularities in the election, in which the NLD won 83% of seats, have led to the most direct confrontation yet between the civilian government and the military, which has an awkward power-sharing agreement.

The constitution reserves 25% of seats in parliament for the military and control of three key ministries in Suu Kyi's administration.

Military chief Min Aung Hlaing added to the coup fears when he told military personnel on Wednesday that the constitution should be repealed if it was not abided by, citing previous instances when charters had been abolished in Myanmar.

In Saturday's statement, the military said his remarks were "to make them understand the situation of the constitution."

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