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Myanmar government chides army chief for criticising election run-up

YANGON (Reuters) - The Myanmar President Office hit back at the army chief on Wednesday for criticising the government’s handling of an upcoming general election, warning that his remarks risked creating fear and unrest, just days away from the vote.

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar's Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing salutes during the Martyrs' Day ceremony in Yangon on July 19, 2020.Ye Aung Thu/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing in a rare interview on Tuesday said the government was making “unacceptable mistakes” in the run-up to Sunday’s pivotal ballot, which would be Myanmar’s second democratic vote since the end of nearly five decades of army rule.

It was his second warning in as many days about potential bias in the election, remarks that President Office spokesman Zaw Htay said were based on “uncertain words” of others.

“It is not helpful to having a free and fair election but will encourage unrest and concerns,” Zaw Htay told a news conference.

Min Aung Hlaing had told the Popular News Journal that the military, as the “guardian” of the country, was watching election preparations closely.

He said opposition parties had complained about irregularities, including voter lists that were incomplete and riddled with errors.

He made similar comments on Monday in a military statement that accused the election commission of “widespread violation of the laws and procedures of the pre-voting process”.

The election commission could not be reached for comment.

The commission is controlled by the government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which has been at odds with the military on numerous issues in recent months, including reform of the constitution that was drafted by the military before it ceded power.

That constitution enshrines significant powers for the military and its control of several key ministries, including Home Affairs.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is widely expected to win Sunday’s vote. In a Facebook post late on Tuesday, she called for calm and urged voters not to be intimidated.

“People are aware of attempts to disturb the holding of a successful election... They are intentionally inciting anger,” she wrote, without elaborating.

Editing by Martin Petty and Nick Macfie