The country is set to hold polls following an historic opening in 2011, after half a century of military rule. Still, there are still concerns about potential violence and military intervention (See: “Myanmar Announces Date for Historic 2015 Elections”). In 1990, when Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept the country’s election, the military refused to recognize the results and placed her under house arrest.
But Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the powerful commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, said that the military would respect the election outcome this year, as it is part of the democratic process.
“Whoever wins I will respect the result if they win fairly,” Gen Min Aung Hlaing said in an interview with BBC, a rare media appearance with a Western news outlet.
“I believe the elections will be free and fair. That is our true wish. We are committed to helping make that happen, any way we can,” he added.
But asked whether he would support the gradual easing of the military’s political role in the country, he was much more hesitant, saying this would depend on the political situation in the country as well as general peace and stability. In particular, he said that it would be difficult to foresee the military stepping back until ceasefires and peace deals have been concluded with all of Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups.
“Yes, I would say it’s rather difficult. It is impossible to leave people with all these problems, without real security,” he said.
He struck a tone similar to one he adopted in an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia earlier this year. As I noted then, he said that Myanmar was “still a young democracy” and suggested that constitutional reform was contingent on the country’s unity, peace, and stability (See: “Young Myanmar Still Needs Strong Military Role, Says Military Chief”).
Last month, Myanmar failed to pass constitutional reform ahead of its elections, which means Suu Kyi will be unable to contest polls and the military will preserve its effective veto in parliament (See: “Constitutional Reform Fails in Myanmar Ahead of Polls”). Given this and other factors, some have already begun to warn about the challenges that lie ahead following the much-anticipated election (See: “Myanmar Faces Daunting Post-Election Challenges, Experts Warn”).