During the visit to attend the 75th Anniversary Victory Day of Great Patriotic War Parade in Russian Federation at the invitation of Minister of Defence of Russian Federation Army General Sergei Kuzhugetovich Shoigu, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing held interviews with the Arguments and Facts and the ZVEZDA news agencies of the country. The following are the questions and answers of the interviews.
The interview with the Arguments and Facts news agency
News agency: First, we would like to welcome the Senior General to Russian Federation, and Moscow also welcomes Your Excellency. We are honoured to have your presence at the 75th Anniversary Victory Day of Great Patriotic War Parade. We also wish you success in all meetings during the visit.
News agency question: We of the Arguments and Facts, on behalf of all news agencies, would like to extend greetings. We are famous not only in Russia, but also all over the Europe. We have an experience of publishing 33 million copies in breaking the Guinness World Record. Our news agency is mainly responsible for defence news. We are very pleased for the interview as the Myanmar-Russia military cooperation is gaining extra success.
Senior General: Well, shall we?
News agency: We know that Your Excellency have attended the 75th Anniversary Victory Day of Great Patriotic War Parade. So, we would like to know the person who invited you, and would request you to present your delegation members in brief.
Senior General: I was invited by the Defence Minister of Russia, and I am accompanied by the Chief of Staff (Army), the Chief of Staff (Navy) and the Chief of Staff (Air).
News agency: We have often read about Your Excellency’s news in Russia or seen them on TV. According to our knowledge, Your Excellency is the supreme commander of all armed forces under the Constitution of Myanmar. How do you discharge your duty of commanding the Ministry of Home Affairs and armed forces including the Tatmadaw and the border forces? What is your daily sleeping hour, and is the duty vitally important?
Senior General: Yes, according to our Constitution, the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services is the chief of all armed forces in Myanmar. But, troops of the Ministry of Home Affairs are not under my direct control, they are under the control of the Union Minister for Home Affairs. There is the police force, and it has two sectors – the Law Enforcement Police and the Armed Police. The latter is called the border guard police in our country. The Union Minister for Home Affairs directly controls these forces, but they are under my command, as the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services is their chief. I give them instructions or coordinate with them in certain issues. This method is so effective in solving the armed conflicts.
News agency: Once, Your Excellency stated in one of your speeches that the history of Myanmar is also that of the Tatmadaw and vice versa. So, please explain the role of the Tatmadaw in Myanmar’s history.
Senior General: It’s a long story. We have to start from our independence struggle. We lost our independence, and when we strived to restore, we lacked a modern armed forces. So, the Thirty Comrades underwent military training in Japan for this purpose, and set up a modern Tatmadaw. The Thirty Comrades then founded the Burma Independence Army (BIA) to restore independence. From there, we fought back to regain independence with the leadership of the Tatmadaw and the participation of the people. Internal armed conflicts appeared after the independence is restored due to the political disagreements. The Tatmadaw had to save the independence. Political disputes followed afterwards, and the Caretaker Government had to save the country from disintegration in 1958. Elections were held in 1960, and the Tatmadaw transferred the power to the winning party. But the ruling party could no more control the country in 1962, and the country was leading towards disintegration, so the Tatmadaw had to control the situation. It had to assume power. The Tatmadaw retained the administrative machinery, and established the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) for the State administration in 1974. The Tatmadaw took part in the party as the core force. But in 1988, internal and external attacks appeared because of the weaknesses of the BSPP government. The government administrative machinery collapsed due to the weakness in management, and as there was no organization to deal with the matter, the Tatmadaw had to restore the country’s situation. At that time, there appeared the public aspiration to adopt multi-party democracy system for the country. The Tatmadaw government assumed the State duties after 1988 to realize the people’s aspiration. So, efforts were made to proceed on the path. The 2008 Constitution was ratified, and the 2010 election was held. In 2011, power was transferred to the party that won in the election. So, the Tatmadaw had to continuously play a role all along the history from the independence struggle in 1948 to 2011. So, the country’s history goes side by side with that of the Tatmadaw. We are on the democracy path for nearly 10 years from 2011 to 2020. During the period, the Tatmadaw has underpinned the path for its stability. So, the history of the nation and the history of Tatmadaw are indivisible.
News agency: We have learnt that according to the 2008 Constitution, Your Excellency as the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services can appoint Hluttaw representatives (members of the parliament). Tatmadaw member representatives can be appointed in all levels of Hluttaws. According to our knowledge, the practice is to enable the country to enjoy political stability and to correctly stand on the democracy path. We want to know how long this practice will go on, and the time, all the Tatmadaw representative leave the Hluttaws.
Senior General: You have mentioned ‘political stability’ in your question, and there is the armed conflict, I have stated earlier. Armed conflicts broke out soon after the independence is regained, and they have not died down yet. There are ethnic armed organizations that have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA). What I mean is that stability is still absence because of the existence of the armed opposition of the EAOs. As regards the national stability, the government led by Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) took office at the first Pyithu Hluttaw at the start of the transition to multiparty democracy in 2011. At the second general election, the government led by National
League for Democracy (NLD) took office under the multi-party democracy system. But, there is slight difference in realizing the system. Likewise, other parties too have different mechanisms. So, political instability appears because of the rise in the political opposition. Another thing is the political immaturity. There will be no political stability as long as the two factors exist. So, the Tatmadaw is striving for political stability, and if there is political stability, the Tatmadaw will be on its own way.
News Agency: As Senior General said, we have learnt from news that the Myanmar Tatmadaw only has been performing duties relentlessly not only for nation defence and perpetuation of sovereignty but also for internal counter-insurgency. We have also seen that the Tatmadaw has never failed to render help to the people despite such enormous duties. It is also heard that the Tatmadaw has played a role in prevention of COVID-19. What would Senior General like to talk about such endeavours?
Senior General: The Tatmadaw is a part of the country. Moreover, members of the Tatmadaw are a part of the country. The Tatmadaw is responsible for the defence of the country while it is necessary for it to protect and help the people. To protect the people, it is necessary for the Tatmadaw to defend the interest, lives and property of the people. Therefore, members of the Tatmadaw bear in mind that it is their duties to help promote the interest of the people while defending the lives and property of the people. People can work only when they are healthy. Students can pursue education only when they are healthy. The country will develop only when people who can work. Therefore, public health is an essential solution to the development of the country. That is why the Tatmadaw has helped protect the health of the people in the interest of the people. Therefore, during the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, the Tatmadaw is rendering assistance to the people relentlessly. This is the assistance we are offering to the public right now. However, we have offered help to the public not only at present but also in the past. Our defence services medical personnel have been rendering health assistance to the people in the entire country since I became the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services in 2011. We are making sure that no one is left behind. We are making sure that the national races are healthy. This is our genuine commitment. We are working with goodwill towards the people.
News Agency: It is heard that the military technical cooperation between Myanmar and Russia has been very successful. Will maintaining the momentum of such achievements make further successes? Is Russia offering assistance in one way or another to quell the terrorism and insurgency in Myanmar?
Senior General: I can say that the cooperation between Myanmar and Russia is a great success. In terms of socioeconomic development, Russia is helping Myanmar indirectly even if it is not supporting the country directly. In the field of anti-terrorism and counterinsurgency, the technologies we have received from Russia are very helpful. They are contributing not only to anti-terrorism and counter-insurgency but also to national defence. Anti-terrorism and country-insurgency are in a sense narrow. National defence is more comprehensive. I would like to say that the cooperation of Russia is very helpful in building defence capabilities for national defence.
News Agency: I think the most interesting news from Myanmar this year is that elections will be held in the country soon. What role will you play during the political changes of the elections as one of the senior leaders who has been enjoying the support of the people?
Senior General: It can be said that elections are held in accordance with provisions of the constitution, which stipulate how the Hluttaw, the Pyithu Hluttaw, the Amyotha Hluttaw and the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw are formed and the president is elected in details. It is of utmost importance that the election process is correct, stable and successful. For the upcoming elections to be free and fair, the first important factor is that a general election was held in 2010 and another general election took place in 2015. The Tatmadaw discharged its duties, helped and cooperated so that the general elections would be free and fair. Similarly, it is our first and foremost duty to repeat the same in the elections in 2020. We will help make the general election a success. If it is trustworthy, we will have to think about how to get involved in politics. The most important factor is to ensure that the general election is free and fair. We will help make it a success. When results of the general election are announced, we will move forward after considering relevant political parties and organizations that contest the general election, in which they make promises, and the will of the people. However, there is another factor. I have been serving in the Tatmadaw for more than 40 years rising through the ranks of lieutenant to Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services, Senior General, through the rank of infantry platoon commander to Senior General. I have gained extensive military experience. I possess political experience of the times I have gone through. I have gone through and seen the times I just told you. I have gone through the times of the Burma Socialist Programme Party. I have gone through the three ages of Tatmadaw government and multi-party democracy as a soldier. I also have administrative experience. I served as a commander of a regional command and a chairman of a state level administrative body. I believe that such experiences will contribute to the interest of the Tatmadaw, the people and the country in one way or another. During the period of more than 40 years I have been discharging duties in the Tatmadaw, I have served the interest of the people and country and will continue to do the same in the future by considering how I can help and what I can do for the people and the country. I will perform my duties which I am directly responsible for. However, I am not directly responsible for some matters. I will always bear in mind that I will do what I can for the country all my life.
News Agency: It is heard that a Theravada Buddhism centre was established in Moscow in 2015 with the guidance of Senior General. It is a great venue for Theraveda Buddhists and it is a great success. Could you please tell me the achievements of the centre and future plans?
Senior General: Buddhism is one of the earliest religious faiths in the world. The teachings of Lord Buddha are noble. All different religious faiths have different noble teachings. One of the teachings is loving kindness. It still holds true. I have heard that Buddhism is one of the religions in Russia. It is a great opportunity for me to work for Buddhism myself. People do what they believe. Therefore, I tried to build a Buddhist monastery in Russia. Now, I have achieved success. We will build a novitiation hall, one of the noblest venues for Buddhism, in Russia soon. Similarly, we are building a replica of the Shwe Zigon Pagoda in the Buddhism centre under the guidance of Sitagu Sayadaw. We will hold an opening ceremony. It will be beneficial for Russian citizens if they believe in and are interested in Buddhism.
News Agency: Senior General paid frequent goodwill visits to Russia on business. Could you please tell me your opinion of changes in Russia and when will you visit Russia another time?
Senior General: This is my sixth visit to Russia. It has a very long history. It was a kingdom, then the Soviet Union, a socialist state, and today’s it is Russia Federation. Speaking of political reforms in Russia, it is undeniable that Russia has developed a lot thanks to the efforts of successive leaders for their people. Today, it is a global power with state-of-the-art technologies. Like other countries, Russia has a lot of its own strengths. This helps us a lot. As I visited Russia, I have learnt its strengths and thought about how I can adjust them to suit for my country. You can’t get things done by just making wishes. For some things, you must learn. For others, you must cooperate. For else, you have to invite others to come to you. This is the way you have to work for the development of your country. Regarding learning, we have sent many military officers to here to learn science, technology, and military. We have sent many scholars to Russia. Many are performing their duties in Myanmar. I have seen strengths with my own eyes here, and our trainees have also learnt certain things from here. And they work with the will to develop the country. This has contributed to a lot to us. So, I would say Russia has a lot for us to learn. I would visit this country many more times it is opportune. This is a very interesting country.
News Agency: We are much honored to have the opportunity to interview you. It is very interesting. We wish you great success in your capacity as the Commander-in-Chief, and hope the strength of Tatmadaw will help ensure a free and free election as you have said. We rely much on you for the election which is important for the security and peace of not only Myanmar but also the entire world.