By Aman Ullah
According to Irrawaddy’s recent report, Burma’s military chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing discussed the provisions for a state of emergency and a potential military takeover of the country, amid an ongoing military conflict in northern Shan State and threats from Muslim militants in the west Burma. In his speech at the National Defense College (NDC) on Saturday, the military chief justified the army’s continuing role in Burmese politics and said the military is a stabilizing force on political and ethnic issues.
It was the second time this month that the army chief mentioned the clause in Burma’s 2008 Constitution—which was also drafted by the military—that allows the military to stage a coup in the event of chaos and instability.
Earlier this month, the military chief spoke to the European Union Military Committee in Brussels, where he said that the Constitution defines “the role of the Myanmar Armed Forces in conformity with the real situation of the nation.”
“If one studies the ‘Provisions on State of Emergency’ in the Chapter XI of the Constitution (2008),” he said, “one will find various step-by-step provisions for the Myanmar Armed Forces in order not to seize the State power easily and in order not to hold the State power for a long time, even if the Myanmar Armed Forces takes the responsibility of the State under the agreement of the President.”
Min Aung Hlaing, a Defense Service Academy (DSA) product of 19th intake graduated in 1977, was served in the Light Infantry Division (LID) 88 under Colonel Than Shwe, later Senior General and the Chairman of SLORC/ SPDC. Since then he was one of the most trust worthy men of the then Snr- Gen Than Shwe.
He also painted the importance of the role played by the army at the 71st Armed Forces Day on 27th March this year, where he said that, “The military will protect the country, guard the public and assist in the government’s operations for the country’s development. The country’s stability is important and we must also build national reconciliation and peace.”
Although NLD is in power but the role of military in politic has not yet end. They want the continuation of their political involvement into the indefinite future. They never compromise with their interests. They always try to preserve their core interests. Those interests include maintaining its status as an autonomous entity beyond civilian oversight, exclusive purview over security portfolios, immunity for former and current military members for past deeds, and, most importantly, a veto via parliamentary representation over any proposed constitutional amendments.
The existing constitution that was legalized by the then military junta through 2008 referendum, which was held in the midst of humanitarian emergency created by Cyclone Nargis. Cyclone Nargis hit Burma a few days before the referendum, and the vote was postponed to 24 May in the most severely affected areas — 7 out of 26 townships in Irrawaddy Division and 40 out of 45 townships in Yangon Division. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for the referendum to be postponed in full to concentrate on the “national tragedy,” but the government rejected this. The Junta came under heavy criticism for diverting critical resources from survivors toward the referendum, including evicting refugees from shelters such as schools so that these can be used as polling stations. Massive fraud and intimidation was also reported. The rigged referendum delivered an unbelievable result of “92 percent” in favor.
On May 6, 2008, the United States Congress passed a condemnation of the Burmese constitution and referendum, by a 413–1 vote.
Moreover, the constitution making process was controlled absolutely by the sham National Convention. No public meetings on the constitution were allowed, no suggestions from the people were collected and no comments from the people were printed in the media. Criticism of the convention is banned by a 1996 order that carries a penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
Although, under the article 16 of that constitution, “The Head of the Union and the Head of Executive of the Union is the President” but under the article 6 (f) ‘enabling the Defence Services to be able to participate in the National political leadership role of the State’ as one of the Union’s consistent objectives. Under article 20 it mentions that: –
a) The Defence Services is the sole patriotic defence force which is strong, competent and modern.
b) The Defence Services has the right to independently administer and adjudicate all affairs of the armed forces.
c) The Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services is the Supreme Commander of all armed forces.
d) The Defence Services has the right to administer for participation of the entire people in Union security and defence.
e) The Defence Services is mainly responsible for safeguarding the non disintegration of the Union, the non-disintegration of National solidarity and the perpetuation of sovereignty.
f) The Defence Services is mainly responsible for safeguarding the Constitution.
The 2008 Constitution means that NLD government has no power to stop some of the most serious human rights violations taking place in Burma today. These include persecution of the Rohingya, the use of rape as a weapon of war, arrests and jailing of political activists and war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Burmese Army, including deliberate targeting of civilians in conflict in ethnic states. In all of these areas, the military, not the government, will have ultimate control.
Under this constitution, the military will remain outside the control of both government and the Parliament. If they choose to continue attacks against ethnic groups, NLD government do not the right to stop them. Associated human rights violations such as rape, targeting of civilians, executions, looting and torture, can all continue with an NLD government powerless to stop them.
The military can appoint the Border Affairs Minister, giving them continuing influence over what takes place in ethnic states, one of the most critical factors in ever achieving peace and stability in Burma.
The military also can appoint the Home Affairs Minister, and so will control the police, security services and justice system. Arrests and prosecutions of peaceful activists could continue outside the control of an NLD government.
Through directly owned companies and via a complex network of associations of various individuals, the military still control a huge proportion of Burma’s economy. By appointing 25 percent of seats in Parliament, the Constitution cannot be changed without military approval, even if an NLD government and every other political party in Parliament want to change it.
Above both government and Parliament is the National Defence and Security Council (NDSC). This body is where, constitutionally, real power lies in Burma. It has eleven members. Six are chosen by the Military, so they have a built in majority. Even above the NDSC, the military have the constitutional right to retake direct control of the country for vague and unspecified ‘national security’ and ‘national unity’ reasons.
2008 constitution is such a constitution that will legalize dictatorship through civilian front and a rubber-stamp Parliament to do is bidding. The constitution reserved substantial blocs of seats in the national and local legislatures for the army, creating a strong new national defense and Security Council and vesting extraordinary powers in the Commander-in-Chief.
International and domestic acceptance of the November 8th election is a critical part of the military’s plan to transition from direct military control to a more indirect control. At the same time however, the military want to weaken and divide the opposition.
Hence, the present NLD government is a toothless tiger with a rubber-stamp Parliament and nothing more. None can expect any ting from this NLD Government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which has no constitutional power to do so.