Suu Kyi’s Attendance ‘Unsure’ at Planned Sittwe Reform Rally


Aung San Su Kyi gives a speech about constitutional reform in Rangoon to thousands of supporters on May 17. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Aung San Suu Kyi’s constitutional reform roadshow is due to hit Sittwe sometime over the coming weeks, but it is not yet confirmed whether the opposition leader will speak in the troubled Arakan State capital.

“It is not sure yet whether The Lady will travel,” said Kyi Toe, a senior member of the National League for Democracy (NLD), referring to Suu Kyi by her popular nickname.

“We are still in planning,” Kyi Toe told The Irrawaddy on Monday. With Suu Kyi, an MP, currently attending the recently reconvened Parliament in Naypyidaw, June 28 and July 12 dates have been proposed for the event.

Burma’s biggest opposition party, the NLD, along with the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, a group of prominent former student dissidents, are jointly campaigning to have Burma’s 2008 Constitution amended, saying the charter gives Burma’s military too much say in politics.

Sittwe is the regional capital of Arakan State in western Burma and, until mid-2012, was a mixed town, with Arakanese Buddhists and Muslims living and working in close proximity. Riots in June 2012 saw most of the towns Rohingya Muslims expelled into grim ghettoes at the town’s edge, where they now live in shacks and depend on aid delivered by the United Nations and other relief organizations.

Most of those displaced and living in camps outside Sittwe and elsewhere in Arakan State are Rohingya Muslims, a group thought to number anywhere from 800,000 to 1 million people. Suu Kyi, a former Nobel peace laureate and for a time the world’s best-known prisoner of conscience, has been criticized internationally for failing to speak up for the Rohingya, who live under discriminatory laws and are labeled “Bengali,” or foreigners, by the region’s ethnic Arakanese and most Burmese politicians.

Despite this reticence, Suu Kyi is seemingly unpopular among the Arakanese, who perceive the opposition leader as aligned with Western criticisms of how Rohingya are treated in Burma.

During a recent interview in Sittwe, Thein Khine, a member of the recently formed Arakan National Party (ANP), slammed Suu Kyi for what he described as “seeking equally treatment between Buddhist and Muslim.”

“We don’t want this,” Thein Khine said, linking the NLD’s perceived stance on Arakan State as similar to that of foreign aid organizations, which were attacked en masse by Arakanese mobs in March after being accused of favoring Rohingya in their provision of humanitarian aid. UN figures show that all but 5,000 of the almost 140,000 people left homeless by violence in Arakan State since 2012 are Rohingya.

Asked if Suu Kyi would receive a warm welcome in Sittwe, should she travel there to speak at the reform event, Aye Maung, the former leader of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), now merged into the ANP, said “I don’t know.”

The RNDP made submissions to have the Constitution amended, including Article 436, Aye Maung said, telling The Irrawaddy that at the moment there are no plans for the ANP to take part in the proposed NLD/88 Generation event in Sittwe. It would follow recent rallies attended by tens of thousands of people in Rangoon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw.

But for Rohingya like Myo Win, the proposed constitutional reform rally will be a reminder of their second-class status.

“Even if the Constitution is changed, it might not give us any hope,” said Myo Win, speaking by telephone from Aung Mingalar, a Muslim district of Sittwe that has been cordoned off by police. “We will not able to attend the event, and I don’t think we will be able to sign any petition for change.”

While Article 59(f) currently bars Suu Kyi from becoming president even if her NLD wins elections scheduled for late 2015, the reform campaign has of late focused on Article 436, which outlines the tricky process by which constitutional changes can take place.

A committee of MPs set up to examine reform has said it will recommend revising Article 436. To pass, the amendment will require at least 75 percent of MPs to back it—as laid out in Article 436—meaning at least one “yes” vote from the 25 percent bloc of unelected soldiers in Parliament will be needed for a change that would likely reduce the military’s political role.

5 Responses to Suu Kyi’s Attendance ‘Unsure’ at Planned Sittwe Reform Rally

  1. Rakhines should not blame Suu Kyi for Bengali issues. The self-serving military regime ignored the border for too long. Ne Win and Than Shwe used thousands of soldiers as their own bodyguards while borders were left unguarded. Look at Mandalay. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese in Mandalay do not speak Burmese. These Chinese carry both Chinese and Myanmar citizenship. When they go back to China, they are at home. When they are in Myanmar, they are at home too. The Chinese bought Myanmar citizenship cards with as low as $ 300 per card. Where did they buy? From regime’s officials. This is how the military regime betrayed us. Suu Kyi never betrayed the Rakhines but the useless and corrupt regime failed to guard the border. Bengali people sneaked into Arakan and now they claim that they have been there for thousands years. We all know that Bengali people came into Arakan in the time of useless military regime of Myanmar. Military regime wants us to see it as hero. To me, military regime betrays the peoples of Myanmar and our nation. So, I call regime “Traitor”.

  2. Arakanese are not in favor of a leader who does not know the history of Arakanese, respect Arakanese and wants to keep Arakanese at the mat in the same position with Bengali who are immigrants as if Arakanese are immigrants. She did not know that they, Burmese invaded Arakan country in 17th century and uprooted and destroyed palace of Arakan country. This kind of person would never be respected and liked by Arakanese at all. They would prefer President Thein Sein or military gov: if they behave so well that they are accepted internationally. Arakanese are not hypocritical and they speak their mind.

    • What are you talking about? How can you say that Suu Kyi does not know the history of Arakan? Who and what the hell you discount Suu Kyi’s intelligence and knowledge? She is even 100 times smarter than the generals combined. Your stepfathers (Generals) failed to secure the borders for six decades. That’s the reason Myanmar has countless aliens on our land. Suu Kyi has the best and most qualified person in Myanmar to lead Myanmars and all ethnics. Army fails to bring peace if we look back the past half a century. Army will never bring peace but sufferings. Suu Kyi never betrays the nation and her people.

  3. ASSK should go to Arakan, must meet peoples like her father, otherwise how can she claim as national figure. Not necessary to make rally, but at least she should make discussion under shelter any where with the peoples of Arakan. NLD is also strong in Arakan and has supporters. WEhy should she afraid of extremists and undersirable elements those are un fit for democratic society.

  4. Majority of Rakhines love freedom and democracy like other ethnics states in Burma.

    Majority does not support racialism; the minority who are in power using dirty politic tactic in Arankan state.

    Certainly, Majority of the Rakhines would love to see DASSK and like to listen to her speech.

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