Chairman of the State Administration Council Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, currently in the Russian Federation, answers the questions raised by Mr Fedor Lukyanov, anchorperson of the International Review programme of Russia 24 at an interview. The following is the interview.
Q: The international community is criticizing the current government of Myanmar for violating human rights and violently cracking down on the public protesters. How will you act to overcome the political crisis in your country? Do you have any plan to hold elections again in line with democratic norms to bring back a civilian government?
A: It is right. Such difficulties unexpectedly emerged when efforts are being made to develop democracy in Myanmar. As we responded to violent acts in taking action against such measures, we faced various blames due to misunderstanding over us. I’d like to say protests are generally staged against a government in a democracy. Such event may happen in every country. There are many examples of similar events. But, if ordinary protests may be transformed into terror acts and attacks, relevant responsible security organization needs to respond to such acts not to harm the people as well as not to undermine the rule of law. If their acts are beyond the restrictions, we need to take action against them under the law. Whoever commits the acts beyond the restrictions, we will take action under the law. So, we don’t have any refusal over the event. In fact, such an event is based on malpractices in the elections performed in a practice of democracy. Although such an event could be cleared in the early stage, the problem happened due to the absence of holding the dialogues to address the malpractices. I have declared the five-point road map as our future plans since we took the office. If the state of emergency and appropriate processes would have been completed, I have given a promise to hold an election democratically without fail. But, the country needs to be peaceful and stable. The situation must have completion of necessary preparations for the forthcoming election. If so, I’d like to say the election will be held without fail.
Q: Do you find it difficult to give an exact deadline for the election now?
A: It depends on the peace and stability of the current situation. Our constitution stipulates a declaration of the state of emergency for one year. If the work process is not accomplished, I must report to the responsible organization to extend the six-month term two times. It may be one year or two years. Roughly, I’d like to say the election would be held within two years. I can reply so. Now, our country does not reach cent per cent peace and stability. So, we need to consider it. Now, it is too early to say it but the election may be held within two years.
Q: We have learnt that the whole world takes interest in Myanmar as it serves as both a militarily and economically strategic location for Southeast Asia and South Asia. Looking at Yangon, how do you act to ensure peace and stability there? Who is mainly responsible for this? What connections do you have with them?
A: It depends on the outlook of the western bloc. Our country is located in a strategic position of geographical conditions in Southeast Asia. Our country sharing a border with the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal is close to powerful China and India. They are interested in the geographical condition of our country. They are interested in our country on the political ground. In the post-independence period, Myanmar exercised parliamentary democracy at first. When the Revolutionary Council has emerged, the country marched forward in the socialist programme. At that time, the people aspired to the multiparty system. In 1988, the unrests happened and then, the government fell in 1988. Then, the Tatmadaw maintained the country under control. So, we walk along the path of democracy the people aspired. In 2011, we march onward the way of democracy. They are interested in the politics of democracy, geographical condition of the country and political ground. So, I review that generally, the western countries wish to interfere in the internal affairs of our country.
Q: Under current global political circumstances, power rivalry and confrontation between China and the US are intensifying significantly. These two powerful countries want Asian countries to cooperate so that they can be under the influence of the countries they like. Asian countries themselves are found to be cooperating with the countries they have good diplomatic relations with. What is your opinion about this political setting?
A: Our country is a member of ASEAN. For the first point, we are a member state of the United Nations. We regained independence in 1948. We have experiences of the colonial era. I have already said Myanmar sharing a border with India and China. According to our country’s history and geopolitics we passed, we exercised the non-aligned foreign policy. Later, we practised the independent and active foreign policy and then friendly relations policy with all countries and the policy based on the five principles of peaceful co-existence. So, Myanmar has friendship countries only but enemy ones. As you refer, the USA is also Myanmar’s friend but it is in some far distance. But, our neighbouring China and India are our close friends. Whatever it may be, we must emphasize the neighbouring relations. Any country cannot deny it. The neighbouring relations must not be improper. We have mutual cooperation with them. We also do cooperate with other countries. We have relations with the USA but both countries are in some distance due to various reasons. The politics with them is also cool due to the far distance. Hence, they are slightly strange in comparison with our neighbouring countries. But we decided to join hands with all the countries amicably. Moreover, being a member of ASEAN, we do the process in line with the practices of ASEAN.
Q: We say the US is a distant friend and China a close friend. How about Russia?
A: Russia is very friendly among the friend countries. You ask me for the United States only, so I referred to China and the USA. Russia is our old and good friend. Despite being the far distance in the political ground, the souls of both countries are so close. Both countries are in a far distance but minds are close. Both countries have common historical conditions. We are similar in struggling. So, I’d like to metaphorize Russia as our perpetual friend.
Q: Since the mid-19th century before the official establishment of the Russia-Myanmar friendship, Russian diplomatic delegations visited Myanmar which also sent its delegations. During that period, both countries have understood each other. As you said, we are really intimate friends. Meanwhile, bilateral cooperation has improved. Are you satisfied with such progress and success? While seeking full cooperation, there can be processes yet to be implemented. When it comes to Russia-Myanmar cooperation, how much process can there be to be carried out? I would like to know what you will do about this.
A: Russian-Myanmar relations have been good throughout history. In the 1990s, relations were better, especially in military-technological cooperation. It is very encouraging. Myanmar is a developing country. At a time when we are trying to develop our country, we need abundant human resources. A lot of our citizens have been sent to Russia for their studies. There are over 7,000. Many outstanding persons have emerged from training here. They are participating extensively in nation-building tasks. When it comes to the collaboration sector, the military-technological cooperation that I have said is the deepest. There are also joint ventures. Yet, what we need to do more is bilateral contacts, trade, global tourism, culture and cooperation in sports, education and health. Russia has a very high health standard. I see those fields as very wide. I intend to do everything I can do within my capacity. I think we will have a better future.
Q: Among the sectors you talked about, I have come to review that tourism is such a promising sector. At a time when Russia has stopped tourism activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of Russian people willing to travel. If Russia has the chance when the preventive measures go well, Russian people will come to Myanmar by grabbing that chance. Thank you for answering my questions.
A: Well. If we have a lot of contacts, we will have more intimacy and trust. This is why more cooperation is necessary for various sectors to have more contacts between the two peoples. Then, we will have greater trust and better friendship. Humans are building up things with trust and confidence. I expect Russian investment in Myanmar. I also hope for a situation where international tourists can come to our country as early as possible. Anyhow, I will do my best.