RANGOON — Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has spoken against participation in the country’s eagerly anticipated 2015 elections unless the military-drafted Constitution is first amended.
In front of thousands of people at a National League for Democracy (NLD) party rally in Tharyarwaddy Township, Pegu Division, on Sunday, Suu Kyi, the party’s chairperson, appeared to adopt a harder line on Constitutional reform and for the first time raised the possibility of a boycott of the vote.
The opposition leader is currently touring the country and holding rallies to drum up support for her campaign to have the 2008 Constitution amended. The current charter gives the military a quarter of parliamentary seats and bars Suu Kyi herself from becoming president.
According to an audio recording of her speech, posted on the NLD’s Facebook page, Suu Kyi warned that the reputations of those taking part in an election under the current Constitution would be damaged.
“I believe that there are people who have dignity in the army and [other] political parties, or organizations. Those who have dignity should not join the 2015 elections unless there is an amendment to the Constitution. There will be no fair elections with the current Constitution,” said Suu Kyi.
“There is a lot at risk in joining the elections. If we join the elections, we’ll have no dignity in the eyes of the people. This is why I urge you not to join these elections unless [the Constitution] is amended. If not, those who join these elections will have no dignity.”
Suu Kyi, who has traveled widely since her release from house arrest in 2010, said she is often asked by foreign journalists about the 2015 elections. She said she always tells them that while the voting might be free, the current Constitution means the elections cannot be considered fair.
The NLD and Suu Kyi have been vociferously campaigning for the charter—which was drawn up by the former military regime and approved in a referendum widely considered as rigged—to be amended. Ethnic leaders are also opposed to the current Constitution, and want to it overhauled to reflect a federalist system.
But the government, which is dominated by former generals, has not made any moves toward amending the document, with time running out to do so before the vote.
In her speech, Suu Kyi spoke specifically of the current charter’s guarantee that a quarter of parliamentary seats are reserved for the military, but did not mention the clause that prohibits her from becoming president due to her marriage to a foreigner.
“The army comes from the people, so why do they have a different level [of parliamentary seats] to the people?” she asked, arguing Burma’s army should not be given any special privilege.
“All should be equal, so our country can more easily become a developed country. This doesn’t mean I do not like the army or that I blame the army by saying this.”
Some former generals in the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party—which came to power after elections in 2010 that the NLD boycotted—have publicly warned against hasty changes to the Constitution.
“There are people who are worried about our party coming to power to run the country,” said Suu Kyi. “They are worried that we are going to take revenge if we get power. But we will never do this.”