RANGOON — Burmese army leaders are not pleased with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent remarks that the army is responsible for constitutional amendments.
During a rally to garner public support for changes to the charter, Suu Kyi last week told thousands of people in Irrawaddy Division that the army, which controls 25 percent of seats in the legislature, has an obligation to participate more in the constitutional reform process.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman said army soldiers, officers and representatives in Parliament were born as ordinary citizens, and should remember that their first duty is to serve the people.
“The armed forces personnel should ask themselves how they can fulfill their duties without serving their first duty. I want to tell all military men that their active involvement in charter amendments is what the people want,” she said to the crowd.
She added that when her father, Burmese independence hero Gen. Aung San, founded the army in 1941, he said the armed forces should not be for any single party or group.
Brig-Gen Tin San, head of army representatives in the Lower House, slammed Suu Kyi’s comments from the rally, saying the opposition leader was being dishonest and merely attempting to secure an opportunity to become the country’s next president.
“She has a hidden agenda,” he said. “Her focus is only on fixing Article 436 to make way for her presidency. She should review every article in the Constitution and decide whether they [lawmakers] should fix them or not.”
He defended the army, saying it had no personal or organizational bias but was working on behalf of the people. He said army representatives were members of the parliamentary committee considering constitutional amendments.
“I have to ask her, how should we be involved? We are already on the committee,” he told The Irrawaddy.
“Her view of the army is wrong. Our history shows that we serve the people, which is why army representatives make up 25 percent of Parliament,” he said, adding that the Constitution also requires army representatives to hold this percentage of seats.
Suu Kyi’s remarks were also not welcomed by lawmakers from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), many of whom are former servicemen.
Min Swe, a retired colonel who is now a USDP lawmaker from Daik U Township in Bago Division, said it was not the army’s job to lead constitutional reform.
“As far as I’m concerned, the constitution shouldn’t be fixed,” he said. “I wonder, to what extent can the army’s commander-in-chief dare to venture out and fix the charter? What if something bad happens if he gives a green light to fix it? The army only makes decisions based on the preservation of the union, national unity and sovereignty.”
“In my opinion, our people right now are interested in making a proper living, not in fixing the charter,” he added.