Suu Kyi Brings Constitutional Talk to Chin State

Zarni Mann The Irrawaddy

TEDIM, Chin State — Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Burma’s poorest state on Tuesday for the first time in over a decade to promote constitutional reform.

In a continuation of her focus on changes to the 2008 charter, which prevents her from becoming president in 2015, the National League for Democracy (NLD) chairperson asked thousands of local people in the town of Tedim, Chin State, on Tuesday whether they were in favor amendments. Nearly everyone in the crowd raised their hand in support, while others called for a complete rewrite of the document.

Suu Kyi met with over 5,000 local residents in Tedim Township, her first stop in Chin State. She will continue on to the city of Falam and the state capital Hakha on Wednesday.

“The agreement of the military is important to amend the Constitution. That’s why we need to convince them. The situation of the Constitution is dividing the military and the people,” she said.

“If the military accepts the desire of the public to amend the Constitution, the change for the country will be easy. That’s why the people must show their desire to amend the Constitution.”

The speech in Tedim followed an earlier statement by Suu Kyi on Saturday, the country’s Independence Day, about the need for military participation in constitutional reform.

The 2008 charter is widely seen as undemocratic in Burma because it was drafted by the former military junta and pushed through in a referendum that has been criticized as rigged. It reserves 25 percent of seats in the legislature for military representatives, and prevents Suu Kyi from becoming president because she has family members who are foreign nationals.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has emphasized the need for military support because more than 75 percent of lawmakers are required to approve amendments.

Suu Kyi urged the people of Chin State to study the Constitution themselves, to identify areas which they believe are undemocratic.

A parliamentary committee has been formed to review the Constitution and consider amendments, with political parties and members of the public submitting recommendations.

President Thein Sein said last week that the military had also submitted recommendations, but he did not elaborate as to the nature of the proposals.