Barack Obama meets with Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi Sept. 19, 2012
Barack Obama meets with Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi Sept. 19, 2012


Burma: Suu Kyi Pushes Constitutional Changes Before 2015

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Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi pushed Friday for amendments to the country’s constitution before 2015, when elections will be held in which she could be barred from becoming president.

“For us, we want constitutional amendments before 2015,” the Nobel laureate told a press conference in the Burmese commercial capital Rangoon. “The sooner, the better,” she said after a three-day workshop on constitutional reform organized by the Sydney Law School of the University of Sydney.

“Only if it is amended, will the people be pleased and have a feeling of trust when the 2015 elections are held,” she said.

The constitution was crafted under the previous military junta and prevents Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming the country’s president.

The charter says that any Burmese national whose relatives are foreign citizens or hold foreign citizenship is not qualified to serve as president or vice-president. Aung San Suu Kyi’s late husband was British and her two sons hold British citizenship.

When asked about whether the constitution would be amended to allow her to make a bid for the presidency, she said no specific amendments had been decided on.

“I’m not willing to discuss the matter at the present time,” The Irrawaddy journal quoted her as saying.

“At present, the [Burmese] constitution is the most difficult constitution in the world to amend, the most difficult,” she said. “If we want to amend the constitution, we have to change the process of amendment.”

Military

The country’s constitution reserves a quarter of seats in parliament for unelected members of the military—giving them enough seats to effectively bar constitutional change, which requires a three-quarters majority.

Former or serving military generals also dominate the nominating process for presidential candidates, who in Burma must be appointed by the consent of parliament.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s popular National League for Democracy could put up a good showing at the 2015 elections that will thrust her to become president.

During her visit to India in November, she said the current constitution cannot ensure credible elections in 2015.

She said progress towards democracy in Burma would have to be linked to critical changes that have to be made to the constitution.

“If we want an answer to whether Burma is on the path to democracy or not, we have to see whether there is a desire to amend the constitution or not.”

“Without amending the constitution, we would not be able to say the 2015 election is free and fair. It may be free but it will not be fair,” she said.

Reported by RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar and Maung Maung Nyo. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

RFA

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