Burma: army ensures that it will respect the constitution, the specter of the coup fades

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The Burmese army on Saturday assured respect the constitution, in reversing the statements of its commander-in-chief who had raised fears of a coup.

• Read also: Burma: the international community warns of a coup

“Tatmadaw (official name of the Burmese armed forces) respects the current constitution (…) and will respect the law by defending it,” said the army on Saturday in a statement in which she explained that its commander-in-chief was misunderstood.

“Organizations and media have misinterpreted the speech of the commander-in-chief and formulated it from their point of view,” continues the Burmese army.

For several weeks, the powerful Burmese army has denounced numerous irregularities during the legislative elections in November, overwhelmingly won by the National League for Democracy (LND) of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, in power.

The tension escalated on Tuesday when an army spokesperson did not rule out the possibility of a coup.

The next day, Army chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing – arguably the most powerful person in the country – said abolishing the 2008 constitution might be “necessary” under certain circumstances.

His comments – translated into English and published in the military-run Myawady newspaper – sent shock waves through the nascent democracy.

The last dissolution of the Burmese constitution dates back to 1988, when the army restored a ruling junta after a popular uprising.

The general’s comments on the constitution, while not directly raising the possibility of a coup, have alarmed more than a dozen foreign diplomatic representations as well as the UN, while small political parties called for a dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi and the military.

The military estimates that ten million cases of fraud took place at polling stations in November, and is asking the electoral commission to publish the voters lists for verification.

The commission refutes for its part any fraud, admitting however that there were “flaws” in the lists.

The party of Aung San Suu Kyi, much criticized internationally for its handling of the Rohingya Muslim crisis, but still adored by a majority of the population, won a landslide victory in November.

It was the second general election since 2011, when the junta that ruled the country for half a century was dissolved.

However, the army retains a very important power, having control over three key ministries (Interior, Defense and Borders).

Historian and author Thant Myint-U said that “the priority now is to protect Myanmar’s incredibly narrow path to democracy”.

“But it is just as important to find a solution to the current crisis that does not harm the prospects for future peace,” he told AFP.

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