Senior General Min Aung Hlaing gives an interview to the head of Kyodo News Agency Yangon Bureau Mr. Hidenori Tajima at Bayintnaung villa.
Nay Pyi Taw, August 27
Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing gave an interview to Kyodo News Agency at Bayintnaung villa in Nay Pyi Taw at 3 pm on Tuesday.
(KYODO) Q: What would you like to say about the role of the Tatmadaw after 2011? Do you have a plan to reduce the number of military representatives in the parliament?
(Senior General) A: After 2011, the Tatmadaw, mainly takes responsibility for State’s defence. We also have to perform duties assigned to us according to the law. Before this, we took the leading role in country’s politics. Our main objective is to build a strong, capable, patriotic, modern army and we are building a standard army at present. I said we have to perform duties assigned to us according to the law, that it performing duties at the parliament. We have switched to a multi-party democracy since 2011 and we found that we are a nascent multi-party democracy. From 1948 to 1962, we exercised parliamentary system, and from 1962 to 1974, it was the period of Revolutionary Council and from 1974 to 1988, it was the period of Myanmar Socialist Programme Party.
And from 1988 to 2011, it was the period of military government. You may aware that most of the times, the country was under centralization. So, we switched to multi-party democracy in 2011 according to the will of people. We took the lead role in transformation and we switched to this system also because we desire it. Therefore, it is important that this system is established firmly. I mean all the process needs to be in line with law and stable. We have entered the parliament legally and doing our share to put the country firmly on the democratic path. Tatmadaw does not engage in party politics, but works for nationalism. We submit the proposals for the sake of the country and it is up to the parliament and the government to accept them or not. We are responsible to submit proposals. We are more desirous of building this system correctly and firmly. We will gradually reduce our role in the parliament on condition that this system is firm and the country is stable in terms of politics and security. It is important that the system is established firmly when we switch from centralization to multi-party democracy. This is our strongest desire.
Q: The Tatmadaw gives support in nationwide ceasefire accord. Is there any problem there? Do you think the accord will be signed successfully before the election?
A: This question relates to multiparty democracy. In multi-party democracy system, stability is of critical importance. You know that our country is faced with ethnic armed conflicts. We have to try as it is an imperative to end the ethnic armed conflict in politics of the country. They (ethnic armed groups) have made demands. And we have granted concessions if we can. So, (the peace process) has reached the stage of signing NCA. The (NCA) draft is already signed, but because of some reason, some details have yet to be discussed. We wish to sign the peace agreement. We want (peace). We have deep desire for the entire country to take part in multi-party democracy with unity. Therefore, I believe we will succeed (in signing NCA). Again, I hope NCA is signed before the election. And we guess we will be able to give an answer in next few days. Here, it is important that (ethnic armed groups) have genuine desire for peace. If they are really willing to cooperate with us on the political path we are taking, we will surely achieve peace, I think.
Q: We guess that there is a very good relationship between you and president U Thein Sein. Do you think the president has accomplished his duties since he took the office in 2011? What is your understanding of the talk that military representatives will support the president if he runs for the second term?
A: Regarding our relationship, we both are Tatmadawmen. Both of us were generals. The president is the retired general. I was his successor to the post of the commander of Triangle Region Command. So, I know his will. The president served as the adjutant general, the high-ranking post, in the army. He has considerable experience in military affairs. Again, he served as the prime minister in the time of previous military government and secretary of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and he therefore has administrative and political experience. He also has the experience in foreign relations. He is fulfilling his presidential duties until now since he came into power in 2011. I think, in some cases, he may be facing constraints and in some cases, the time is not yet ripe. Again, there have also been some gains and there are also things he has yet to do. But generally, the actions regarding the establishment of multi-party democracy have achieved certain extent of success.
Our Tatmadaw gives hand for the accomplishment of tasks, firstly peace building. We join hands in making peace and ensuring stability of the State. And we also make contribution with might and main in required arenas of the country where we can offer our service. Why? Because I want to make this entire system a success. As we have put heart and soul into this effort, it is fair to say that there has been certain degree of success although we still can’t achieve complete success in some areas. Regarding your second question, in my view the president or the one who assumes State’s responsibilities or the one who would perform a duty for various reasons need to have genuine desire to serve the country and uphold and guarantee Our Three Main National Causes. Again, he needs to be endowed with political, administrative, and economic and defence outlooks. And he should get on well with the Tatmadaw. Therefore, if someone meets these criteria—if president would run for second term, it is up to him—we have no reason not to support him. I will consider anyone who meets these criteria, not only President U Thein Sein. I would say the experienced one will be more benefi cial to the country.
Q: Will the Tatmadaw back up the president if he desires for the second term?
A: It will be taken into account when the president is elected. The president is elected (according to presidential election law) by presidential electoral college. We don’t know yet who will be nominated (as the vice-president) then. We will consider depending on the outcome.
Q: We have seen the cooperation between two armed forces of Myanmar and Japan. You also have visited Japan recently. What is your comment on the closer ties between armed forces of two countries? Do you think the cooperation should be fostered between two armed forces in the future?
A: The relationship between Myanmar and Japan armed forces have existed since 1940s.Thirty comrades who went and learnt (military skills) in Japan gave birth to modern Myanmar Tatmadaw. Some of the systems we are practicing (in our armed forces) are systems of Japan Armed Forces. We have also adopted some good systems from British Army. It is suffice to say that modern Myanmar Tatmadaw was born with the assistance of Japan Armed Forces. Therefore, the relationship between Myanmar and Japan was very good since independence until 1988. The bilateral relationship was little strained after 1988 because of various reasons. However, since 2011 after the elected government came into power, we have taken measures to promote the bilateral relations and it is now fair to say that there has been progress. Personally, I want to foster the ties between Myanmar Tatmadaw and the Japan Armed Forces. I visited (Japan) last year and our Tatmadaw goodwill delegations have also visited Japan. Currently, a delegation is in Japan and just a couple of days before, my Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Commander- in-Chief (Army) paid a goodwill visit to Japan. So, I believe it will need to strengthen the relations between two armed forces. And I believe the friendship between the two armed forces will greatly deepen the bond between the two countries.
Q: Now, Japan is promoting the sale of military facilities such as reconnaissance aircrafts and patrol vessels. Are you interested in military facilities of Japan? What type of facilities are you interested in?
A: I have said that we need to build our Tatmadaw as modern armed forces. We do need modern weaponry and machinery to build modern armed forces. We believe that weapons of defence produced by Japan are of top quality in the world. We do need such things for our armed forces. But then, we have to buy those things depending on the budget of the country. So, I would say I would like to (get them). I reckon we will be able to buy reconnaissance aircrafts and patrol vessels in comfortable circumstances. In fact, an army has lots of requirements. But personally I think, the fighting capabilities and fighting spirit of soldiers is the most important—far more important than weaponry power. We need to nurture such spirit first. I have talked about building a standard army, but then much remains to be done to meet this end.
Q: Would you accept any outcome of the coming election including the landslide victory of the opposition parties. What is your assessment of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi?
A: Firstly, it is important that the election is free and fair. If the vote is carried out rightly, and the Union Election Commission (UEC) announces the outcome is correct, we have no reason not to accept it. This is the fi rst point. As I have said, we have just switched to a multi-party democracy in 2011 and we have little experience. Here, the (election) result may depend on the emotional feelings of the voters. The opposition party may or may not win the landslide victory in the election. It is anybody’s guess. No one can predict it. So, we will accept the result of the vote that is rightly carried out in any constituency, no matter which party wins the vote. Regarding my view on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she has experience. And we reckon that her experience will contribute some what to the country. So anyway, she will be beneficial to the country if only we work together, I believe.
Q: Would you transform yourself into a politician and enter politics in the future for we learn that you reach pension age next year?
A: I am a government staff member. As a government staff member, I am interested in State’s affairs. But it is still early for me to say if or not I will engage in politics. I will probably the use (the word) politics some time after I retire. Currently, I am discharging the duties of the Tatmadaw and the State—firstly the duties of the Tatmadaw. I am now building a credible and reliable Tatmadaw for the people and for the country. And I’m also making contribution to State’s affairs. I will consider if nor not to join politics only when I retire.
Q: We all know that you are vastly experienced. And people say so. There are expectations that you will engage in politics in the future. So, have you decided to do so after you retire?
A: I’m dedicated to serve the interest of the country, (I’m willing to take) any role.
Q: Myanmar is the neighbor of big powers like China and India. And ethnic issues are facing the country. How do you handle this tough situation?
A: Mutual trust is the most important thing. Our foreign policy counts for much as we are sandwiched between two powerful, big neighbors. Our foreign policy is to maintain friendly relations with all countries based on policy of peaceful co-existence. We don’t have cult of nationality. We need to take considerable caution as we are sandwiched between two big countries. The bilateral relations and (mutual) trust count for much here. Likewise, if we sign the nationwide ceasefire accord (NCA), we will be able to overcome ethnic armed confl icts, I believe. It is important that we need to convince that we can righteously serve the interests of the entire nation and develop and unify the country. This is the most important thing. If we are united, I believe we don’t to need to be worried a lot even if we are sandwiched between superpowers. Therefore, the unity of our country is of fundamental importance. And the foreign policy and relationship based on mutual trust will also be a contributing factor.
The Myawady Daily, Page (18)