July 20, 2015 / 6:28 AM / 2 years ago

Myanmar military chief defends political role, report

Myanmar's military Commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing arrives to attend Myanmar's top six-party talks at the Presidential palace at Naypyitaw April 10, 2015.Soe Zeya Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's commander-in-chief reiterated the need for the military to continue its powerful role in politics and said he would consider standing for president in November elections if asked to do so, according to an interview broadcast on Monday.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told the BBC that he had no intention of stepping down from his role leading the military this year, ending some speculation about his plans, but he left open the possibility of accepting a presidential nomination.

"If people ask me to do this duty, I will decide then," he told the BBC.

Myanmar's military retains a strong position in the Southeast Asian country's quasi-civilian government that came to power in 2011, ending 49 years of direct military rule, and has shown little interest in ceding its control.

Under the military-drafted constitution, presidential candidates do not need to be legislators. The constitution also reserves 25 percent of seats in parliament for unelected military officers.

Proposed changes to the charter require the support of at least 75 percent of lawmakers, giving the military an effective veto over possible changes.

An attempt to change that threshold in June failed to gain enough support in parliament.

In his interview, Min Aung Hlaing maintained the military's line that it was still too early for the armed forces to step back from the political arena.

He cited concerns over instability caused by fighting with armed ethnic groups and Myanmar's need to transition to democracy in a "disciplined" manner as reasons for the military's continued role in politics.

Myanmar's Nov. 8 elections are seen as a crucial test of the breadth and pace of the country's reform process. Its last nationwide election in 2010 was widely seen as rigged.

Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin; Editing by Paul Tait

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