A top government official has said Burma will amend its Constitution to allow democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to run in the next presidential election.
Aung Min, a minister from the President’s Office, reportedly made the statement while visiting the United States to receive a peace award on Monday from the International Crisis Group on behalf of President Thein Sein.
He told members of the Burmese community in the United States that Burma’s government would amend the much-criticized 2008 Constitution to allow Suu Kyi to become a presidential candidate in 2015, the US-based Radio Free Asia reported in its Burmese edition.
However, the minister’s claim was not supported by leaders of President Thein Sein’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Htay Oo, a vice chairman of the former junta-backed USDP, told The Irrawaddy that his party had no plans to amend the Constitution at this stage.
“Our party has not considered yet to review the Constitution,” he said. “We cannot do it even if we wish to do it.”
Suu Kyi, who became a lawmaker last year after 15 years under house arrest by the former military regime, is currently prohibited from running for president because she has foreign children.
Win Tin, a leading member of Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, said he heard that some chapters of the Constitution would be amended but warned that the USDP retained a heavy presence in Parliament and that the military’s role in politics would not disappear.
“Even with a constitutional amendment, it will be very hard for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to be elected as president,” he said, referring to the opposition leader with a title of respect. “Her rival groups in Parliament will try hard to prevent her from becoming president. And she needs to get huge support from both the lower and upper [houses] of Parliament to become vice president or president.”
Last month, Parliament announced that it would form a committee of law experts and intellectuals to review the Constitution to bring it in line with the broader reform process.
Two senior members of the USDP, Aye Myint and Thein Zaw, made the proposal to establish the committee. They are considered confidants of Shwe Mann, a former general who is speaker of Parliament’s Lower House.
Since then, political analysts have speculated that the constitutional review would focus on the question of whether to allow Suu Kyi to run for president or vice president.
The committee is expected to begin discussing the Constitutional review in July.
The 2008 Constitution disqualifies Burmese nationals from running for president or vice president if they have family members who are foreign citizens or hold foreign citizenship.
Chapter III, Article 59 (f), of the Constitution states: “He himself [the president or vice president], one of his parents, his spouse, one of his legitimate children or their spouses shall not owe allegiance to a foreign power, nor be the subject of a foreign power or the citizen of a foreign country. They shall not be persons entitled to enjoy the rights and privileges of a subject of a foreign government or citizen of a foreign country.”
Suu Kyi married Michael Aris, the late British scholar, in 1971, and gave birth to her eldest son, Alexander, the following year in London. Her younger son, Kim, was born in 1977. Both of her sons have UK citizenship.