Suu Kyi Tipped to Meet Army Chief in Coming Weeks

By The Irrawaddy 5 January 2016

National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi is tipped to meet Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing in the coming weeks, sources close to the government and opposition suggest, the pair’s second dialogue since the Nov. 8 general election.

The peace process will reportedly be high on the agenda, with political dialogue, set to be attended by some 700 delegates, to begin on Jan. 12.

“The peace process is the first thing the new government will work on. We will try for the all-inclusive ceasefire agreement,” Suu Kyi said in a speech to mark Independence Day in Rangoon on Monday, as quoted by Reuters. “We can do nothing without peace in our country.”

The 70-year-old NLD leader held separate dialogues with President Thein Sein and Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw on Dec. 2, with all parties pledging to cooperate to ensure a smooth transition.

While the content of either discussion was not revealed, observers saw the twin meetings, which had been requested by Suu Kyi shortly after the NLD’s resounding election victory, as a positive sign.

Min Aung Hlaing, 10 years Suu Kyi’s junior, greeted the opposition leader warmly in front of the cameras. But their one-hour confab, the pair’s first bilateral sit-down since the commander-in-chief took up the post in 2011, was not thought to have touched on sensitive topics

To the surprise of many, Suu Kyi also met with retired senior general and head of the previous military junta Than Shwe at his residence in Naypyidaw on Dec. 4. Again, few concrete details of the discussion—which sources suggest lasted two hours—have emerged.

Than Shwe’s grandson, who also met with the NLD leader in November, quoted the former junta chief as referring to Suu Kyi as the country’s “future leader” whom he would support “with all my effort.”

Suu Kyi was reportedly diplomatic and pledged a consultative approach under an NLD-led government, informed sources said—an approach that was deemed to have worked well. But it was not known whether the unlikely interlocutors discussed the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and, more specifically, Article 59(f) which effectively bars Suu Kyi from assuming the presidency.

According to the clause, the president “shall he himself, one of the parents, the spouse, one of the legitimate children or their spouses not owe allegiance to a foreign power, not be subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country.” Suu Kyi’s two children are British nationals, as was her late husband.

In December, Thura Aung Ko, a senior lawmaker with the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) told the BBC’s Burmese service that Article 59(f) could be suspended with the support of a majority of lawmakers, allowing Suu Kyi to formally assume the country’s top post.

While some observers have played down that prospect, Suu Kyi herself has repeatedly said that regardless of her formal position in government, as the head of Burma’s ascendant political party, she will lead the country.

Well-placed sources told The Irrawaddy that Suu Kyi was likely to raise the issue of amending the Constitution during her second meeting with Min Aung Hlaing.

With the army in control of a quarter of parliamentary seats and an effective veto over charter change, the support of military lawmakers is crucial. Further dialogue between Suu Kyi and the army chief could therefore be integral to defining the political landscape in 2016 and beyond.