Why did Senior General Min Aung Hlaing take power from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? (Exclusive Interview)
NP News - 17/02/2022
Exclusive interview with Major General Zaw Min Tun
(Special report to the NP News )
The chief editor of the NP News met with the deputy minister of Information Ministry Major General Zaw Min Tun in early February 2022 and conducted an exclusive interview with him.
This news feature will offer insight into some hidden political contexts of why the 2021 coup has occurred inevitably.
Q: First of all, many are saying that Tatmadaw usurped the office as its leaders are obsessed with the power. Some say that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing wants to possess the president title; so he took the power by force. How will you respond to those accusations?
No one can beg for the president title in Myanmar
ZMT: I’m sure you must have known the situation happened before 1st February 2021. First of all, I would like to say it was a must that Tatmadaw took the power on 1st February 2021. Otherwise, we might lose the vision of ‘having genuine and disciplined democracy’. Here, I want to highlight the conflict between ‘the truth’ and ‘the majority'. The question is: will you stand for the truth? Or will you stand on the majority? There is no other clear answer to solve this conflict, but negotiation and bargaining. Only negotiation and bargaining can fix the clash between the truth and the majority. In fact, they (the NLD) denied many times to discuss, negotiate and problem solve on the arisen dispute, which in turn, led to the coup.
ZMT: Concerning ‘the president position’, you know that no one can beg for this title in Myanmar. The 2008 Constitution prescribes every detail in provisions on how to elect the president and vice-presidents. According to the Constitution, the nominated vice-presidents shall be elected by a three-committee body. The candidate who receives the highest number of votes shall be elected as the president; while the rest two shall be vice-president 1 and 2 depending on their received votes accordingly. So, technically, ‘the president title’ is not a position that someone can ask for or demand personally.
ZMT: We would say those accusations are just something that tries to deceive the public and covers up the real background.
Tatmadaw repeatedly notified of the electoral fraud to the stakeholders before the coup
ZMT: Let’s get back to the period before 1st February 2021. Since before the election day, Tatmadaw had repeatedly informed both the electoral authorities and the public about having a free and fair election. We held many press conferences. We officially released many statements to notify the arisen issues in respect to the election. To abridge, we formally announced so many times that the electoral processes weren’t free and fair.
Tactics that the NLD executed to commit the electoral violations
ZMT: In the statements we released, we highlighted that other political parties were deterred from conducting the election campaigns as the authorities laid down Covid 19 restrictions for the electoral campaign. However, the NLD performed campaigns in different places which they claimed were not conducted by the party, but by the supporters. Again, presentations to the public by the political parties that were transmitted through the MRTV were censored by the authorities. Have you seen such censorship in the 2010 election or 2015 election? Therefore, some political parties canceled their plans to give the speech from the MRTV. What is more, the NLD promulgated rules and regulations overwhelming the electoral law. We (the Defense Services) had noticed and warned that point since before the election.
ZMT: After the election, Tatmadaw received many reports and complaints from the political parties. They complained that the election wasn’t free and fair. A candidate from a well-known party received ‘zero vote’ to him in the constituency he was running for. It doesn’t make sense and at least he and his family must have voted for him. That’s for sure.
Tatmadaw’s press conferences and statements
ZMT: Tatmadaw started holding press conferences on 23rd December 2020. We announced that we found out rigging ballots in townships and constituencies with sound evidences. We invited the international media and let them see the documents. Not only paper documents but we also showed the controversial voter lists on the computer.
ZMT: The electoral fraud data were categorised into sectors: including one NRC number but involved in the voter lists more than one time; the list of below 18-year-old included in the voter lists; and those who involved in the voter lists although they do not have the NRC and, etc. So, we held press conferences many times about those cheatings. Tatmadaw and some political parties officially requested the authorities to check the voter lists.
Did the shell Union Election Commission (NLD appointed) fully use its power? Yet denied to resolve.
ZMT: The UEC said polling stations for service members and their families will have to move outside the military compounds. It was really hard for the Defense Services in some territories to go outside for casting the vote. However, the Commander-in-Chief agreed to move the polling station outside the military compound. The Commander-in-Chief himself cast the vote together with the public at Zayar Thiri township polling station, Nay Pyi Taw - outside the military compound.
ZMT: I want to highlight both the eligible voters and the candidates have the right to demand to check the documents and records of the voter lists. It is a lawful right. But the UEC denied it. We requested the UEC to resolve the disputes. But the UEC couldn’t find a way for problem-solving. Even the news media asked why the UEC didn’t resolve the issue even though the army requested that much.
Parliament too denied convening the special session
ZMT: The journalists already knew that when the UEC didn’t solve this crisis, we demanded the parliament to do. According to the Constitution, the parliamentary special session must be convened if at least one-fourth of the total number of the representatives so require. According to that constitutional proviso, the military parliamentarians demanded to resolve the crisis via the parliament. Yet again, the parliament (Hluttaw) denied it too. After the parliament rejected our request to resolve the electoral violations, Tatmadaw directly and officially requested the government and the responsible persons to resolve the electoral crisis. At least six statements we released in the post-election period.
Last minutes negotiations, requests, and situations shortly before 1st February 2021
ZMT: Before February 1, some military generals visited the government officials to make negotiations with them for having better outcomes through compromises. Notwithstanding, we were neglected. Finally, a letter which was written by handwritings of Commander-in-Chief and Deputy Commander-in-Chief was sent to them. In the letter, our demands were very clear and simple: we repeated that electoral violations were uncovered; therefore we demanded to postpone convening the new parliament; to re-organise the UEC with trustworthy and reliable persons; and to scrutinise the ballots, votes, and voter lists.
ZMT: On the ground situation, we noticed that they planned to scrutinise the votes and voter lists at the schools with computers. However, that plan couldn’t be developed. I don’t know detailed situations within them. U Zaw Htay (former director-general) and U Kyaw Tint Swe (former minister of the state counselor office) visited and met with the Commander-in-Chief. The final discussion was the Defense Services could not let happening unlawful acts.
ZMT: We proposed and made overtures to resolve the crisis through National Defense and Security Council meeting. It means we formally informed them. We formally proposed them. In the negotiation process from our side, we requested the UEC; the parliament; and directly to the government. Sadlythough, none of these proposals were favoured.
ZMT: At the end of January, just before February 1, we heard that the parliament would postpone convening the parliamentary sessions; in fact, they would convene the parliamentary session but wouldn’t take the oath; and they would re-scrutinise the voter lists. However in the evening, they confirmed convening the next term of the parliament as their original agenda. Then, February 1 incident happened. The NLD government was guilty of dereliction of duty for failing to explain vote-rigging and tried to convene the next term of the parliament without re-scrutinisation, which had the Tatmadaw to take the sovereign power unavoidably in accord with the Constitution.
Why election is important for Myanmar’s democratic transition?
ZMT: Here, what I would like to say is the election, as per the Constitution, plays an important in Myanmar’s democratic transition and the road to democracy. Why I said that is, first of all, the parliament is the root for exercising all administrative, judiciary, and legitimate powers. The parliament holds legitimate power. The members of the legislature nominate and elect the president. So, the executive power comes from the parliament. What is more, the president elected by the parliament nominates and appoints the Chief Justice of the Union and Judges of the Supreme Court. Therefore, the election is tied up with all three powers. How will it be in line with the democratic standards if the government, parliamentarians, and the judicial pillar became taking power despite of the electoral fraud?
ZMT: The Defense Services is mainly responsible for safeguarding the Constitution. Tatmadaw took the power of the state on 1st February 2021 in accord with its responsibility and obligation as per the Constitution. We are exercising the country’s power in line with the five-point road map. The last point of which guarantees to hold genuine and disciplined multi-party democratic election and the state duties will be handed over to the winning party. We won’t deviate or derail from the road map.
Part 2 of the interview will be continued ……