Phoenix TV of People’s Republic of China interviews Chairman of State Administration Council Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing
Nay Pyi Taw June 4
Q: Senior General, you always look fresh and healthy in the media these days.
A: Thanks, I am fine. I am travelling as I believe that it’s good to meet with the people. So, I am doing my own job, visiting various places and giving advice.
Q: Mingalabar, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The world has noted the changes in Myanmar that began in February. But, the people outside Myanmar are saying that it’s a military coup. What’s your response?
A: That is only their view. So, it’s sure that they have no knowledge of the Myanmar’s constitution and that is a point. We have the rights entrusted by the constitution and because of them we have a wide array of powers.
I would express the difference between a coup and the restoration of power. We have a provision in the section 417 of the constitution, which says that the Tatmadaw will have to restore the nation in an emergency situation. So, we have assumed the duties of the State under this provision. In fact, the section 6 has a stipulation which says that the Tatmadaw must serve the national political duty of the State. The section 20 has a provision, which says, “The Defence Services (the Tatmadaw) is mainly responsible for safeguarding the Constitution.” Then, the section 417 states the rights of the Tatmadaw to control the nation in case an emergency situation arises. So, I would explain that the Tatmadaw has restored the national situation without a military coup.
In controlling the country after the declaration of a state of emergency, first, the Tatmadaw formed a new government with the participation of Tatmadaw members as well as civilian technicians and influential persons. Members of the new government are not only the soldiers. You can see this in our government and that is the first point. The second point is that we are working in accord with the constitution. We have never abolished it, so it is still in force.
Q: I have a short question here. You mean that by doing so, you are safeguarding the constitution, right?
A: Yes, exactly.
Q: What sort of a situation can be term as a threat to the constitution? You mean that are protecting the constitution because of such threats?
A: Correct. The attempts to take over the State power amounts to a threat. As the election results were against the law, we were trying to solve it. But, the ruling party was trying to maintain its power by calling the parliament, instead of solving the problem. We have protected the country from such attempts.
Q: In the election, NLD government declared that it won 80 percent of the votes. On which figures did the Tatmadaw has quoted in saying that NLD lied in the election?
A: They (the NLD government) said that they had won about 80 percent of the votes. But, it was based on their election results. But, the voter lists were totaling wrong at the time of the election. The then Union Election Commission (UEC) announced that there were 38.27 million eligible voters in Myanmar. But it was later discovered that there were 10.48 million errors on the voter list.
In democracy, election is a vitally important element. Even the one-party socialist system runs under election system: so also the multiparty system. If an election is based on wrong voter list, its results will be worthless. It is an international belief.
Q: I appreciate your answer. Do you mean that NLD deliberately did it?
A: We have a large compilation of our findings on the wrong voter list. When we checked, we discovered 10.48 million errors on the voter list. The voter list had over five million people with a single identity card, people with same father and different mothers or people with the same mother and different fathers. It included centenarians and people without identity cards, totaling four million. The grand total of errors in the voter list reached 10.48 million. How can a voter list with a large number of errors can be correct?
Q: The public response on the recent political change can be said rather severe. Did you expect it or made advanced preparations for it?
A: Sincerely, I never expected such
response. There might be emotions. Here, I would present a similar situa-tion in Myanmar as an example.
There was a government held examination in Myanmar in 1956. It was the seventh standard examination. Problems surfaced when a breach of security led to the spread of examination questions in the pre-mature period. The government had to postpone the examination during its course. But, the well-prepared students were disappointed with the postponement. So, they staged a demonstration. There were students who got the questions in advance through illegal means as their parents had pay for them. They too were angry with the postponement. So, both the students who had entered the examination in an honest way and the students who sat for the examination in a dishonest way were upset. During the strike they staged against the government, one student died when police members tried to disperse the crowd. As for the honest students they staged the strike as they never did anything wrong in taking the examination. The dishonest ones also joined the strike as they were worried that they would face legal punishment if their malpractices were exposed. So, the strike grew larger.
Q: Commander-in-Chief, thanks to your example, I now have a clear view of the rioters. There are two parts. One part is the honest voters who staged the demonstration as a show of their disappointment and the other part is the rioters whose plots met with a failure. This is what I understand.
A: Yes, you are right.
Q: What I have noted is that some quarters were saying that over 700 persons died in the current political turmoil. Which organizations are responsible for this? What are your plans to prevent such human deaths from occurring in the future?
A: Yes, they put the number of deaths at over 700. But, the source of their list is questionable. How can you confirm this number? We cannot confirm it. The actual number of deaths is just around 300. We have already announced this figure. Many of them died while trying to commit acts of terror. When violent attacks started, peaceful protests could be seen. We didn’t respond to the violent attacks. We saw them in a distance. Then, they became crowds of protesters. They gradually transformed themselves into the riot level. Then, they became violent attackers and anarchic mobs. Next, they attacked us with the use of arms at the terrorism level. So, police could not set aside them when those protesters attacked us with the use of arms in the riots. It was necessary to respond to them. In this regard, some casualties would happen in the necessary response. Some police members were dead. A total of 47 police members fell in the events. More than 200 police members were injured. Those police members fell in the events of responding to the anarchic mobs, riots and terror acts. Nobody expressed deaths of police members but media spoke out death of some 700 rioters. I’s like to criticize such expression was unfair. With regard to terror acts, I mean both sides should not commit violent attacks not to cause deaths. For example, one commits terror act, one will face the equal response. If one side did not commit terror acts, bomb explosions, setting fire and harming the people, the control teams did not have any reasons to extremely perform the control tasks under the law and no reason to respond to do so. Hence, other side needed to commit the terror acts. if so, I’d like to note that further deaths would not become in the future.
Q: I’d like to raise more question. We found more than 3,000 persons were detained. Some of them were former Hluttaw representatives and former politicians. Some of them were artistes and ordinary people. I’d like to know how to consider and tackle their cases in the long run.
A: I slightly separated it. It is a nature that if one is dissatisfied with the government, one may stage protest. I don’t have any criticism for ordinary protests. But, incitements to cause riots and terror acts are commitment of crime. So, it is necessary to take action against them. I divided two parts in taking action. I gave just warning to service personnel who committed ordinary incitement. If ordinary people commit so, words of advice will be given to them. Taking action depended on degree of their crime. We did not pardon the incitements to cause uncontrollable riots of the State. It needed to take action to some extent against them. But, we did not impose severe frightening to the people. We performed controllable acts. Now is time when COVID-19 breaks out. We released many restrictions for COVID-19 such as limit of number of crowds and social distancing. But, they broke all. We were in patience when they broke these restrictions. If not, we had to take action against many persons. But, we didn’t do so.
Q: I have learnt wireless Internet and mobile system were cut off in Myanmar. How about it? Do you tell it is in normalcy?
A: At a time the riots started, social media spread misinformation. So, we shut down the media to be able to control such movements. We accept media must be for the people. I’d like to say my concept that there are three pillars namely the people, the government and the Hluttaw. They are under check and balance of media. So, I identify media as the fourth pillar. I let media do freely for media affairs. But, if it derails from the media route, the country will face severe impacts. So, I controlled the media. To be able to control the media, I managed the Internet. You have much experience in the Internet. A lot of incitements could be seen on the social networks. In this regard, action was taken against many persons who spread the propaganda and misinformation through Facebook. As now is stable, some restrictions have been eased and so, the situation is in nearly normalcy.
Q: How do you predict the State Administration Council as well as the Tatmadaw would take the time of controlling the State responsibilities?
A: In accord with the constitution, the state of emergency will last for one year only. If the duty does not complete in the state of emergency, the president or pro tem president will allow two six-month terms. It must not be beyond the two years. So, we will do so within two years in maximum. It does not allow the term beyond the two years.
Q: If supports increase and situation is stable, do you have any plan to be changed?
A: We plan to realize the Union based on multi-party democracy and federalism. if the situation learing to such system is sure, we will do. If the situation is stable within one year, the state of emergency will last one year. If not, we will add one six-month period. But, the current situation is to vigorously implement the process within one year. I can’t predict matters related to six more months. I’d like to note that it will depend on participation of the people, political parties and international community.
Q: If the term will last for two years, do you have any plan?
A: I focus on development of the nation with stability and peace in the democracy. I wish the honesty politics and genuine democracy. It was not chosen by mine but by the people. As the people chose the multiparty system in the 1988 unrests, the Tatmadaw paved the way of multi-party democracy for the country. As it was chosen by the people, I did not have the power to revoke it. It must be in line with the public wish. So, I didn’t revoke the constitution and now follow it. So, you may notice we are standing on the route the Myanmar citizens chose.
Q: You do consider amendment of the constitution within one or two years. Do you have any plan to amend the constitution?
A: We tried to amend necessary provisions of the constitution as of 2011. Many amendments could be done from 2011 to 2015. Some issues should be done through referendum. So, these issues cannot be amended because the referen-dum has not been held. We cannot amend it carelessly. Chapter XII of the constitution mentions how to amend the provisions. We follow it. These issues must be done via Hluttaw. So, we cannot amend it. You understand the constitution stipulates these issues can be amended after the election.
Q: If the election was completed and wishes to amend these issues came out in emergence of the future Hluttaw, how does the Tatmadaw stand on?
A: In accord with the public wishes, we will amend the necessary issues. I have found the issues necessary for amendment.
Q: The Tatmadaw is an important organization for the State. Now, do you prioritize the State defence as number 1 due to current situation of Myanmar? If not, do you give the first priority to protection of the constitution? What is more impor-tant? My question is the Tatmadaw is responsible for maintaining the constitution in addition to defending the country and the people. How do you accept what is more important?
A: In the political trend, protection of the constitution is more important. On the issue of country, the defending the State is more important.
Q: Now, NLD has formed a national unity government and is talking about formation of armed organizations. As a legitimate Tatmadaw of the State, what is your opinion?
A: They are indeed an unlawful organizations. They have been de-clared as an unlawful organization and a terrorist group. When they first got involved in political affairs, they were declared as an unlawful organization. When they took up arms in protest involving destructive acts, they were declared as a terrorist group. If there is a declaration of unlawful organization or terrorist group, they will not be recognized in the international community. They are working in the air.
Q: As the situation goes on like this, can it reach kind of civil war? What is your opinion?
A: I don’t think so. The current situation in Myanmar is like a conflict in border regions and some other regions. All other parts are seeing peace and stability. Ethnic armed conflicts emerged since the independence in 1948. In 2011, we could put our country on the track of democracy. We have achieved peace. After peace talks in 2012, the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement was signed in 2015. No civil war broke out. The current situation is far better than the previous ones. There may be armed conflict because there are still EAOs. They still exist along the border. So, there might still be problems. But, civil war is impossible.
Q: There are new groups they have formed. They now have aid equipment and weapons. So can you imagine how such resources became available to them?
A: The weapons they are using
might have come from the ethnic armed organizations along the bor-der. They might have bought them. In the international community also, there are a lot of arms smuggling cases. There are also home-made guns. I assume so. It is true arms can be bought.
Q: I have another question. What is the situation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? Is there likely to be any situation where she can be outside to face her prosecution?
A: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is in good health. She is comfortably at her home. She is very well. In coming days, she is due to appear in court for her charges. She will come out within days.
Q: Will she be allowed to meet her defence lawyers?
Q: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has her supporters both inside and outside Myanmar. She is also a Nobel laureate. How will you give a remark about her in relation to peace or foreign relations?
A: I want to say that she did her best, according other age and experience. It has been about four months since we took over the State duty. After review and assessment of everything the previous government did, I found that based on her age and experience, she did as much as she could.
Q: Was she able to really accomplish the peace process?
A: This is like what I have said. She did her best based on her age and experience.
Q: Are you saying she did as much as she could.
Q: Your government attended the
ASEAN special meeting. We found that the five-point consensus could be reached. The main things are the emergence of talks among stakehol-ders, sending of an ASEAN envoy and assistance. Do you think it will be difficult to realize those points?
A: Really, they are not that difficult. However, we have to do depending on time and circumstance. This is not an urgent issue. There is no difficulty if we do by looking at the situation of our country, the situation of ASEAN and the situation of the international community. I said the suggestions they gave were good. Yet, I said I would consider and emphasize what is going on in Myanmar. It is important peace and stability prevail in the country. If there is no peace and stability, outside pressure could create good or bad things. We also said we would act depending on the situation and peace and stability. There are three things: ASEAN Charters, ASEAN Ways and ASEAN Spirits. We must do based on them. If we chose other ways, there can be difficulties. So for us, we have no difficulty. If both sides understand that, there will be things we can do.
Q: Do you mean that Myanmar’s political stability is most important to implement these five points?
Q: Do you also mean that the situation of Myanmar is well under control?
A: We can’t say it by 100 percent. There are still subversive acts in some places.
Q: Will you say that the time has not come to implement these five points as the country has yet to see hundred percent stability?
Q: How do you judge the opinions from other countries?
A: They have their opinions. They have different outlooks based on their opinions and political ways they are using in their own countries. Countries are different from one another. What they mainly want is to ensure a democratically elected government. When you first asked me about power seizure, I said they didn’t understand our constitution. I would say that powerful countries have such outlooks based on this situation.
Q: Is what ASEAN wishes to see in Myanmar also like that?
A: Of course. ASEAN countries want to see peace and stability in Myanmar. They want to see unity among our people. Their leaders see as it is.
Q: Do you agree on the peace proposals ASEAN has given?
A: I agree to it on principle. There is no reason I don’t agree. I said we would continue to do depending on the peace and stability in Myanmar.
Q: State Council member and Chinese Foreign Minister Mr. Wang Yi also proposed three supporting points and three points to avoid for Myanmar. What is your opinion?
A: He talked about constructive things. They are really good. Myan-mar accepts them. It is natural as well as practical.
Q: Chinese companies witnessed what happened in Myanmar. How will you arrange for the security of those companies? What is your opinion? We invite you to discuss this.
A: We have over 500 businesses with investments from Chinese companies. Roughly, they are worth over US$-21 billion. In the previous incidents, 21 factories faced arson attacks and 13 or 14 of them are owned by Chinese companies. Not only China but also other countries are investing a lot in Myanmar. Some were on the list of those destroyed. We are protecting all businesses with foreign investment. I myself visited them and coordinated matters to render assistance so they could re-run as quickly as possible. We are providing necessary security.
Q: Some Myanmar people are showing negative attitude towards Chinese investment. What is your opinion?
A: This is politically motivated. It is due to incitement. Not only Chinese but also other foreign citizens are investing a lot in Myanmar. Investments do not exist only now. Busi-nesses owned by Chinese citizens have been in our country since our independence. We have also Indian citizens-owned businesses. In the past, there were instances of riots related to businesses with Indian investments. They exited in the past and exist around now. But, I view them politically motivated. Our citizens are not anti-Chinese. This is the issue of making them politically motivated. Our country has not only businesses owned by Chinese but also businesses owned by Myanmar-born Chinese. We have Chinese born in Myanmar and Chinese-descendent Myanmar citizens. Their investments have existed since ancient times. We have a lot them now. They are doing business. So, it is politically motivated.
Q: We understand what you said. Can you tell us about one revealing fact in relation to this political motivation?
A: Talking about incitement, for example, it was an attempt to harm the businesses of those targeted people, not businesses of other people. China has over 500 businesses in our country. All those were not targeted. Just about 10 were targeted. So, we can say it politically motivated. For economic purposes, all would have been attacked.
Q: Were these attacks carried out by all those inside Myanmar? Can there be any other organizations outside the country by making contacts?
A: We can’t show strong evidence.
Q: Can you release information in future about these facts related to outside instigation when you are able to do so?
A: We will do when we have any matter that should be publicized. Reviewing this issue, it was an attempt to harm our own national economy. By vandalizing Chinese-owned factories, they think Chinese will withdraw their investment from Myanmar. So, it was politically motivated. Fake online news spread that some factories in Myanmar are planning to move to other countries. This is political motivation.
Q: What I want ask further is so-called Rohingya refugee issue in Rakhine State. There are Muslims there who have yet to become citizens. How does Myanmar term them? They are claiming to be Rohingya. What is your opinion about this?
A: There is no Rohingya. It is just an imagination. Actually, those coming from Chittagong region of east Bengal are claiming to be Rohingya. We never called them Rohingya in any era. Our country became a British colony. Our country was ruled by the British. At that time, national censuses was conducted. In the censuses conducted in 1911, 1921 and 1931,there were only Bengali and Chittagong. There was no Rohingya. In the census conducted in the post-independence period also, we found Bengali and Pakistan and Chittagong. There was no Rohingya. We don’t accept Rohingya. Myanmar has officially registered 135 national races. There might have been slight changes. Rohingya is not among them. Neither is Bengali. It is not our national race either. It is an imagination they have made. We can’t recognize it.
Q: Successive Myanmar govern-ments said Rohingya does not officially exist in the country. They also understand that it has not been recognized. But, Western countries have great interest in Bengali sur-vival. They call them Rohingya. What is your opinion about the root cause of the conflict between them and indigenous people?
A: Those in northern Rakhine State are living as they are. They have been living there for many many years. They have no problem. Rakhine people there live there together with Bengalis. They have no problem. Bengali has two types—Bengali Hindu and Bengali Islam. We have found them. They have been residing together with indigenous people without any problem. Conflicts surfaced only because of incitement. Another this is that there are those who have already arrived there for a long time. When Suez Canal was being built and paddy prices increasing, the British brought Bengalis from east Bengal to Myanmar to do farm work. They had left behind and never returned since then. The population increased gradually. In the past, conflicts broke out. Later, they lived in peace without many conflicts. There were only a few. But they were not serious. There was only one major conflict named Alethankyaw that happened in 1942. It was very terrible. Since then, there had been no serious conflict.
To be continued