Suu Kyi Urges Army to Support Constitutional Change

By Sanay Lin 6 January 2014

RANGOON — Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the army to support efforts to amend the Constitution, which was written by the former military regime.

Speaking on the 66th anniversary of the country’s Independence Day on Saturday, the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader said it was crucial for military representatives in Parliament to get involved in the amendment process.

The Constitution currently reserves 25 percent of seats in the legislature for military representatives, and any amendments would require approval of more than 75 percent of lawmakers, meaning that some soldiers would have to vote in favor of change.

“The army should not act like this issue is not related to them, because they are very important,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate told a crowd of hundreds of people at an event at the NLD headquarters in Rangoon’s Bahan Township. “The government is acting similarly. But this issue affects all people in the country, so how could it not relate to government?

“They need to have courage to deal with these challenges, in order to have real national reconciliation. How can they improve the political situation if they keep pretending there is no problem?”

Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burmese independence hero Gen Aung San, says she wants to become president after the 2015 general elections, but the Constitution currently makes her ineligible. Written by the former junta and passed in a 2008 referendum that was widely regarded as a sham, the charter says a president cannot have family members who are foreign nationals, and Suu Kyi’s two sons are British.

The charter also reserves a quarter of parliamentary seats for the military. The president is chosen by members of Parliament.

“Burma achieved independence with cooperation from the army and the people. I hope the army will cooperate with the people to have a stable independence, and to have a better political system and freedom in the country,” Suu Kyi said.

Burmese President Thein Sein last week said he supports efforts to change the Constitution and remove restrictions that currently prevent Suu Kyi from becoming president.

Speaking Thursday in a monthly radio address, he said “a healthy Constitution must be amended from time to time to address the national, economic and social needs of our society.”

“I would not want restrictions imposed on the right of any citizen to become the leader of the country,” he added. “At the same time, we will need to have all necessary measures in place in order to defend our national interests and sovereignty.”

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

Thein Sein said Thursday that the military has also submitted recommendations, but he did not elaborate as to the nature of the proposals.

Additional reporting by Lawi Weng.