After publicly announcing her desire to be Burma’s next president, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been urged by supporting politicians and activists to take special safety precautions.
The Nobel Peace laureate and parliamentarian—who was only released from house arrest under the former military regime in 2010—announced last week what Burma observers have long suspected: that she wishes to be president after the country’s next elections in 2015.
Peter Lin Pin, who was elected as a lawmaker in the 1990 election, which was annulled by the former military regime, said he worried Suu Kyi might be targeted in an assassination plot by those who wished to retain power as the country transitioned from nearly half a century of military rule.
“As she has expressed a desire to get power, I’m worried she might be assassinated by those who are mad for power,” Peter Lin Pin said. “Those who are crazy for power can get rid of her at any time.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should be careful,” he added, referring to the opposition leader with a title of respect. “Even though it’s said that our country is now a democracy, military dictators are still behaving as they please.”
During the former military regime, which ceded power to a nominally civilian government in 2010, several plots targeted the democracy icon and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. In the 2003 Depayin affair, a motorcade of Suu Kyi and her entourage was attacked by a pro-junta mob, leaving about 70 people dead.
Phone Myint Aung, a lawmaker from the New National Democracy Party, said law enforcement and security measures in Burma today were inadequate to protect Suu Kyi.
“A public idol and political figure like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who aims to be president should be careful about her security,” he said. “The present situation is such that even ordinary citizens aren’t safe.”
Mya Aye, a leader of the 88 Generation Students Group, said the 2015 elections would likely be competitive, and that security should be provided for all presidential candidates.
“Threats to life and safety are not only important for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but also for all leaders of the state,” the activist said. “I hope there will be no cheating and it [the 2015 election] will be fair.”
Win Tin, a patron and co-founder of the NLD, said he was also concerned about Suu Kyi’s safety because she frequently goes out to meet with member of the public. The government, he said, should be responsible for protecting the democracy icon from any assassination attempt.
“Public leaders need to go among the public,” Win Tin said. “They know it’s dangerous, but that doesn’t discourage them, and there are no special arrangements for safety.”
Still, he said Suu Kyi had managed to take care of herself since the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, that her political opinions were well known and firmly established, and that he trusted she would continue to take precautions to stay safe.
“It’s right to worry about her safety, but it’s impossible for her to stay away from the public over fears that it could be a danger to her life,” he said.
Soe Win, a senior politician from the NLD, said hard-liners continued to hold positions in the new government and that he worried they could stir up trouble ahead of 2015.
“There has been unrest in this democracy,” Soe Win said. “If it continues like this, the 2015 elections might not even happen.”
He said he believed religious clashes, including in west Burma’s Arakan State, were organized with political motives.
“This unrest has been stirred up systematically, with a specific purpose, and instigators must be behind it,” he said. “
NLD lawmaker Phyu Phyu Thin said recent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims—and the slow response of law enforcement—indicated that security standards in the country were weak.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should be more alert than ever,” she said. “She won’t stop going places because of security reasons—if she needs to go, she will—so we need to work together for her security.”