Myanmar marks unusually low-key Armed Forces Day

AP News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2011 6:39 AM
Myanmar marks unusually low-key Armed Forces Day

Myanmar's military government on Sunday held an unusually low-key ceremony marking Armed Forces Day, as anticipation mounts that it will soon turn over power to a nominally civilian administration.

The holiday commemorates the day when the army rose up against Japanese occupation forces 66 years ago. It is usually is observed on a grand scale with a military parade and a speech by the country's military leader in the capital, Naypyitaw.

There was no explanation given for why the ceremony was cut back for the first time since the junta took power in 1988.

However, the move comes as rumors swirl that a military-dominated civilian government formed after elections last year will soon be officially sworn in, perhaps in the next few days.

The state-run media gave the holiday normal treatment. They printed the speech that junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe gave at last year's commemoration, and an editorial in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper praised the military _ known as the Tatmadaw _ for "leading the nation and the people to the way to democracy by serving as a major national force."

The opposition led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose father Gen. Aung San led the uprising against the Japanese, held its own ceremony for the holiday, which it refers to by its old name, Resistance Day. The name was changed in 1974 to avoid offending Japan, Myanmar's top aid donor in the 1970s.

Her National League for Democracy party issued a statement urging that a "dialogue be held urgently to eliminate the misunderstandings between the democratic forces and the Tatmadaw" and that political prisoners be released.

Suu Kyi's party boycotted last year's elections, saying they were being held under unfair and undemocratic conditions. The vote and a constitution pushed through by the military ensure that the army will hold ultimate authority over the government.

Asked if the rocky relationship between her party and the government will change when a new civilian administration takes power, Suu Kyi replied: "I don't know but we always want good relations with the government. I wish that the relationship will improve."

"Only they (the new government) will know how they intend to treat us but we will work for good relations," she said.