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Fact sheet

Fact Check: Does Myanmar's military have absolute freedom to do what it wishes?

Australian Labor Party Sovereignty Defence Myanmar

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is facing international condemnation for her apparent failure to challenge a brutal military crackdown that has forced half a million Muslim Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh. Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd said Ms Suu Kyi was largely powerless to act because of political constraints in a country where the military was supreme. Mr Rudd said Ms Suu Kyi faced the constitutional and legal reality that the military had "absolute freedom to do what they wish," RMIT ABC Fact Check found Mr Rudd's claim was oversimplified. The military does not have absolute freedom to do as it wishes. Rather, it is part of a fragile power sharing arrangement with Ms Suu Kyi's democratically elected party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). Most experts consulted by Fact Check said that although the military has considerable constitutional backing, Ms Suu Kyi's personal popularity in Myanmar, as well as political influence through her party's parliamentary majority, give her the ability to challenge the military's excesses. However, they believe that political considerations have prevented her from speaking out against human rights abuses or exercising fully the power that she holds.
Verdict: Oversimplified

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