IN pursuit of a “genuine” democracy, Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to push for amendments to the country’s constitution which was enacted by the military.
The current constitution of Burma (Myanmar) bars her from the presidency and allows the military to retain significant influence over the workings of government. So Suu Kyi’s proposal is a bold move, potentially setting her party and herself on a collision course with the country’s powerful military.
The 70-year-old Nobel laureate called for a constitution “that will give birth to a genuine democratic union.” She added, “We need constitutional amendments.”
She made the comments in a nationally televised address to mark the start of the Buddhist new year.
Promising “a federal democratic union”, Suu Kyi indicated that a priority would be greater autonomy for the country’s ethnic minorities. Burma has been torn by multiple ethnic conflicts for decades, and her comments seem geared to demonstrate that her party intends to govern for all.
“Peace and a federal democratic union are closely intertwined and that’s why we need to change the constitution. The most important thing is national reconciliation,” she said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Suu Kyi’s power to change the constitution remains hamstrung by the military, which still retains considerable power in government and parliament. The present constitution has long been seen and criticized as a vehicle for military control of the country. It allocates control of the key security-related ministries – Home, Defense, Border Affairs – to the military. Additionally, it reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for military officers.
Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in November elections, ushering in the country’s first civilian government after 54 years of direct and indirect military rule.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press