Exclusive interview with the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Min Aung Hlaing

Chief Editor Wai Phyo interviews the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services

“We will vote as the rule set by the Election Commission …. We will try to ensure the free and fair election …. Since it is recorded in the history, we can’t allow any mistake.” 

The Eleven Media Group met the Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on February 14 evening. 

Q: I would like to ask about the situation of the Military versus democratic forces and the Military versus ethnic groups for the national reconciliation. In fact, we know that the military and democratic forces meet in the parliament. My question is how would the military deal with them if the executive and judicial pillars are governed by the democratic forces beyond the 2015 election?

For another question, we have learnt that there have been agreed with the ethnic groups concerning with the federal. However, there are some barriers to complete the agreement. So, please give me your opinion on what kind of disagreeable factors are there.

A: For the role of the Military and the democratic forces question, today we practice multi-parties democracy system in accord with the 2008 Constitution. The military involves in different pillars like legislation and the executive in line with the law. The military is not allowed to do beyond the law. In fact, the military does not conduct such unlawful manners in the present or the future. We will involve in line with the law. The military supports and advises the executive pillar and the legislative pillar to the limit of its right. The military will cooperate in accordance with the law no matter whoever governs the pillars after 2015. There is nothing inconvenient to it. I’m sure it will be all right. Since the military has to obey the law as the first priority, the cooperation needs to be done in line with the law. I think the first question might be enough here.

For the second question – the role of the military and the ethnic groups. There are eight main ethnics and more than a hundred tribes in Myanmar. The Immigration Department has the exact figure though there might be changes in the list. We have the definite boundary. Ethnics live in the country; not the ethnics built it. Ethnics live in this country together. They are Bamar, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan. We (the ethnics) need the same spirit. Generally in present time, every country in the world tends to develop the country to be matched with its conditions and position. For Myanmar, it is absolutely impossible to detach any piece of the country as we have the definite boundary. Therefore, willing to how to improve the country should be the common aim. So, to become the federal state as you said, the union that we currently practice in democracy is based on the federalism. There are many definitions for this. There are many things to be discussed. The important thing is there must be mission to do the better country. In addition, each party should try to achieve their rights. After that, they need to work for the country. The military will always stand and attempt for that. 

Q: I would like to ask concerning with the election. In the history, it has been criticised  that some military officials were dismissed from the service since they were alleged intervening the election in 1958. However in 1960 and 1990 elections, the military involved as a neutral.  Then in 2010 election, there were some criticisms. In 2012, the military involved as a neutral again. So, may I know the military’s paradigm concerning with the upcoming 2015 election if you are able to tell.

A: The election means a country’s fate. It is the result for the country’s fate. The military wants free and fair election. So does the military try for it. That’s why we try to build peace and to hold the election in the armed conflict regions as much as we can. But we can’t tell it will be successful or not. The military voted as its wish in the 1990 election, 2010 election and others. We have to involve in the voting process as the system set by the Election Commission. I’ve decided to undertake to be free and fair. It will be recorded in the history. Therefore, I can’t allow any mistake for that. 

Q: There are some forecasting for the upcoming 2015 election that the opposition party NLD (National League for Democracy) might win the election. If the NLD wins the election and its personals involve in the cabinet as the people are forecasting, how the military cooperate with them? Then, I would like to know your outlook on the 2015 Election. 

A: Again, we have to obey the law for any issue. So, no matter which party becomes the government, we have to involve and cooperate as the law is enforced. Besides, who wins in the upcoming election is just the forecasting. So it might be true. Or it might be wrong. So, there must be an approach which is matched to the law in order to cooperate with them. Plus, the country’s maturity and understanding be each other is needed. As a matter of fact, the countries which are matured for the democracy do not face problem for the election result. Notwithstanding in the countries which are not matured face problems in more or less for the election result. We need to overcome such problems. There won’t be any problem if we overcome it. 

Q: Based on your view that it needs to overcome problems finding in the elections in both democracy mature or immature countries, what is your analysis for our country concerning with the election result as the outcome of mature or not?

A: Majority of our people believe in Buddhism. Actually, they want to live peacefully. However, if there is instigation to them, the situation is changed. We need to beware about it. If there is no external instigation, the election will be finished peacefully I believe. It is not strange that people express what they demand if they don’t get their rights. If another party eggs on them that they are right, the condition becomes explosion. We need to protect from such situation. 

Q: Please give me your comment that you want to add concerning with the national reconciliation and the election. 

A: All citizens must have the common mission. The common mission should be how to do to be the better country and how to develop the country. The definitions of betterment and development are different. Shall we try for the betterment or the development? We can’t admire other country’s development. We need to create the union in which all citizens unite. The country’s power lies within the country. We can’t rely on other country. It is a short term to rely on other. To build the strong country for long term, it is the responsibility of the citizens. I would like to urge all to cooperate to each other with full of knowledge. 

Q: Now we are turning into my final part of my interview. I would like to ask about your personal life experience. Let me ask you.

A: I will answer all I can do. 

Q: Please tell me about your life experience in abridge including about your parents.

A:  My parents are from Dawei. My father is an officer from the public construction department. He draws as an art work. He’s just like an artist. He is known as the artist Khin Hlaing. We have lived in Mandalay since my father is a public servant and we had to move where he was transferred. We have lived in Minbu and Yangon. I passed the matriculation exam in 1972 in Yangon from No. 1 BEHS Latha. Then, I went to the university. I started to attend the law from 1972 to 73. Then in 1974, I entered into the military. I was appointed as gazette officer in 1977 as the batch 19 from the Defense Services Academy. I became the Second Lieutenant, a young personnel. Mostly I was appointed in the infantry regiment as life as young personnel. I became a regiment commander in 1994. In 1995, I became Lieutenant Colonel and in 1999, I became a strategic chief. Then, I attended at the National Defence College. I became a Commander of 44 Light Infantry Division in 2001. Then in 2003, I became the headmaster of the Defense Services Academy. In 2004, I became the Commander of the Western Command. I served as the Commander of the Triangle Region Command until 2008. After that, I was the Chief of Bureau of Special Operations at the Commander-in-Chief Office. Then, I served as the Chief of Armed Forces Traning. In 2011, I became the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services. My wife is Kyu Kyu Hla and I have a daughter and a son. That’s general information for my life. 

Q: Please tell us your principle in work and life.

A: People think about how to improve themselves. I'm also like them. I think about how to make my life better and how to improve it. I try to do that. Another thing is my subordinates. You can say they are my subordinates. Some of them are also my colleagues. Personally, I do have the desire to improve myself, but I never have the desire to step on others. Also, I try to find ways to cooperate with my subordinates. I give them advices and I urge them. 

Also, my area….for us it's the military. I try to find ways on how to improve the military. Ever since I was young, I try to find ways on how to improve my military unit, squadron, and regiment to be better than others. This is how I have tried to live my life as a soldier. Just like this, I only have the desire for others to become developed and to urge them. I only have good will towards others. I have never encouraged any bad wills. Personally, I don't smoke or chew betel. I don't encourage others to do that. It's the same with alcohol. I advise them to drink with restraint. Regarding health, I only have the desire to improve my health and advice others [on how to stay fit]. These are my personal tasks.

Q: In a recent news article published by 7Day newspaper, I have read that you will turn 60 at the end of 2015, but as far as we know, you will only turn 60 in 2016. I'm not sure whether our information is correct or not. So, we want to ask you whether you will retire at the age of 60 in accord with existing rules and regulations or what will be your opinion if the situation arises for you to remain in your position such as when the President and other people still want you to continue to carry out your duties.

A: At the moment, the job of a commander-in-chief is very vast. It's very complicated. As I have put my heart and soul in doing my job, I don't really think about these issues. I have the experience, but I don't have any plan to prioritize this. Another thing is, I will turn 60 in 2016, not 2015. It's still early. I still won't be overage during the October-November election in 2015. I can't say what will be needs of the country and the military at that time yet. There are many opinions about this issue here [at the military]. There are individual opinions and views from the surroundings. These are just individual views. As for me, I don't give any priorities to these issues.

Q: Please allow me to ask you a question in relation to this. Do you have any plans to enter politics or haven't you made up your mind yet? 

A: Just as I've said before, I really haven't thought about this because we can't say what will be the needs of the country and the military yet. I can't say anything at the moment.

Q: So, you haven't made any decisions yet?

A: But, I have the desire to do the best on any matters. I can surely say that I have the desire to work for the benefit of the country.

Q: Please tell us about the current issues in our country and the clashes at the China-Myanmar borders.

A: As for the current situation in our country, I don't have much experience. It's only been four years so we need to be patient in carrying out our works. I want to request the people to abide by the law. We all need to try hard in respective sectors. Whether it is workers, farmers, students, the military, or civil servants, we all need to do our best in our fields. People will have needs. Some of these needs are instigated by the surroundings so we need to control this with consideration. This is an important issue for the country's development.

Another thing is the border issues. We need to carry out our works with consideration. I want to say we can handle this with a united force. We don’t need to be afraid of anything. The country's force is inside the country. I believe in the people's force.

Q: Thanks for answering our questions. Would you like to add anything else?

A: There isn't much to say. Actually, I want to tell the public to have the ability to act with rationalism after knowing the truth.