Myanmar army backtracks amid coup fears | News | DW | 30.01.2021
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Myanmar army backtracks amid coup fears

Tensions soared in the fledgling democracy after the army suggested it would "take power" if its concerns about vote fraud in last year's election weren't addressed.

Myanmar's army chief, Min Aung Hlaing

Myanmar's military says General Min Aung Hlaing's comments about repealing the constitution were misunderstood

Myanmar's military pledged Saturday to protect the constitution and act according to law, after comments this week from its commander-in-chief sparked fears of an impending coup.

The country's powerful army has repeatedly made allegations of widespread vote fraud in the November elections, which saw Aung San Suu Kyi's ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) win by a landslide.

But political tensions escalated this week when a military spokesman refused to rule out the possibility of a coup, and warned the armed forces could "take action" if concerns about election irregularities weren't addressed.

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Fears of a looming coup

The army's commander-in-chief, General Min Aung Hlaing, then added to putsch fears when he told military personnel on Wednesday that it may be "necessary" to revoke the constitution if it was not abided by.

The UN and several Western embassies in Myanmar on Friday voiced alarm at the prospect of a military intervention and urged the country to "adhere to democratic norms." 

But in a statement on Saturday, the military — officially named the Tatmadaw in Burmese — appeared to backtrack on its rhetoric, saying that the general's remarks had been misinterpreted.

"The Tatmadaw is protecting the 2008 constitution and will act according to the law," it said. "Some organizations and media assumed what they want and wrote as Tatmadaw will abolish the constitution."

The statement said the general's comments aimed to make military staff "understand the situation of the constitution."

'Suitable explanation' from the army

The NLD, which won 83% of the seats in the election, said the military's statement offered a "suitable explanation."

Myanmar-based analyst Richard Horsey said an imminent coup now seemed unlikely.

"It appears that [the] Myanmar military has stepped back from its coup threat," he said on Twitter. "How to interpret that, and what it means for stability going forward, depends on the behind the scenes details that aren't clear yet."

Myanmar was ruled by the military for almost five decades after a 1962 coup. It is now governed under a power-sharing agreement between Suu Kyi's civilian administration and the country's generals.

The country's election commission has rejected the army's allegations of widespread vote fraud, although it has conceded there were minor flaws in the process.

Newly elected MPs are expected to take their seats in Myanmar's parliament on Monday.

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nm/mm (Reuters, AFP)

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