Myanmar's powerful army picks lawmakers as transition moves forward

Myanmar military officers attend the opening ceremony of the Union Peace Conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Jan 12, 2016.
Myanmar military officers attend the opening ceremony of the Union Peace Conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on Jan 12, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

YANGON (REUTERS) - Myanmar's army chief Min Aung Hlaing nominated military officers, who hold a quarter of seats in Parliament, to their posts, state media said on Tuesday (Jan 19), another step by the army in what has so far surprised many as a remarkably peaceful transition.

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party swept the historic Nov 8 election, but Myanmar's military, which ruled the country for 49 years before giving way to semi-civilian government in 2011, remains a powerful political force.

A statement carried in the Global New Light of Myanmar daily said that the election commission had confirmed the military lawmakers for both national and regional parliaments.

Myanmar's second-in-command, deputy commander-in-chief Soe Win, reiterated on Monday (Jan 18) the army's willingness to keep its powerful position in politics during a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken during their meeting in the capital of Naypyitaw.

"Vice Senior General Soe Win explained... the plan to cooperate with the next government and the leading role of the Tatmadaw in national politics," the state-owned Myanmar language daily Kyemon reported on Tuesday (Jan 19). Tatmadaw is the Myanmar term for the military.

 

The 25 per cent of seats in the national Parliament gives the military an effective veto over changes to the 2008 junta-drafted Constitution that bans Ms Suu Kyi from becoming the president because her late husband was British and her sons are not Myanmar citizens.

 

Three key security ministries - defence, border affairs and home affairs - also remain under the control of the commander-in-chief.

The newly appointed military lawmakers will attend their first session together with representatives chosen in the November election on Feb 1.

In the national bicameral Parliament, 166 military MPs will serve. Another 220 will serve in 14 state and regional assemblies. They hold positions ranging from captain to major-general, according to the list published in the state media.

Major-General Tauk Tun is the most senior military lawmaker selected for the lower house and Major-General Than Soe for the upper house.

The NLD-led government will take power in March following a presidential election carried out in the national Parliament in February.