The commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw has said candidates for this year’s election should resist foriegn influence, in what some see as a thinly veiled attack against the National League for Democracy.
The call was among six suggestions for candidates that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing made in a meeting with opposition parties last week.
The suggestions were published in the military-owned Myawady newspaper and reprinted on a leaflet distributed by military veterans in the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina this week.
The Senior General also said candidates ought to be able to handle matters of race and religion without being influenced by international organisations.
Pro-military nationalists have sought to paint the NLD as a party unable to defend Myanmar’s Buddhist culture from what they see as a threat from Islam and western influences.
“They don’t mention any names, but the meaning is very clear,” said Ko Phyo, a Myitkyina resident who saw one of the leaflets. “Everyone can understand they are asking people not to vote for NLD. Is this in line with the election law?”
The leaflets were aimed at veterans, their friends and family members, Ko Phyo said.
Ratan Kumar of the war veterans’ organisation in Myitkyina’s Myae Myint ward said he did not know if the Tatmadaw or a political party instructed the organisation to distribute the leaflets.
He handed them out to 12 veteran’s families at the request of his organisation, he added. “I didn’t do this for my own good. These are just the suggestions from the commander-in-chief on how to vote.”
Last week the military-backed USDP led a group of dozens of political parties to meet Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw and asked him to intervene in the event that the Union Election Commission tried to “corrupt” the November poll.
Kachin state war veterans’ organisation chairman, retired Major Ohn Thwin, told Myanmar Now he was not aware of the leaflets circulating among veterans.
About 4,000 veterans’ organisation members reside in Myitkyina, and he has not instructed them to campaign during the election, he said.
Former Colonel Yan Naing Oo of the organisation’s Yangon regional branch told Myanmar Now that he has not received a directive but has been advised verbally to choose candidates who can improve the country.
“Our organisation does not discriminate against other political parties,” he said. “The members are allowed to vote for any party or any candidate they like. We only have the goal of voting for the candidate who can make the country better.”