Myanmar army downplays coup rhetoric amid putsch fears

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s military yesterday vowed to abide by the country’s constitution, in an apparent backtracking after its commander-in-chief spurred fears of a coup when he suggested the junta-scripted charter could be repealed.

The powerful army has for weeks alleged widespread irregularities in November’s election, won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD).

Tensions ramped up on Tuesday when a military spokesman refused to rule out the possibility of a coup.

A day later, army chief General Min Aung Hlaing – arguably the most powerful person in Myanmar – said revoking the 2008 constitution could be “necessary” under certain circumstances. His comments – translated into English and published in army-run Myawady newspaper – sent shockwaves through the nascent democracy, only a decade out of the grips of a 49-year military junta.

Yesterday, the army released a statement claiming its commander-in-chief had been misunderstood, though the statement did not directly address fears of an imminent coup.

Bikers ride past a signboard welcoming the new government of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon. PHOTO: AP