Myanmar's Suu Kyi Calls for Changes to Constitution

29 Jan 2012

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Myanmar's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi (2nd R) talks to reporters after receiving the Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Award for Democracy from Pakistani President and widower of Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari (L) and his daughter, Asifa Bhutto Zardari at Suu Kyi's home in Yangon


Myanmar opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi called on Sunday for changes to the military-drafted constitution in her first political trip since ending a boycott of the country's political system last year and announcing plans to run for parliament.

Thousands of people lined the roads shouting "Long live mother Suu" as her motorcade moved through the rural coastal region of Dawei about 615 km south of her home city, Yangon, the main business centre, reports Reuters.

The trip, only her fourth outside Yangon since her release from years of house arrest in November 2010, demonstrates the increasingly central role of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as the Southeast Asian state emerges from half a century of isolation.

"There are certain laws which are obstacles to the freedom of the people and we will strive to abolish these laws within the framework of the parliament," Suu Kyi said to cheers from supporters after meeting officials of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Dawei.

The NLD, though well known in the country, has had limited real political experience. It won by a landslide a 1990 election, a year after Suu Kyi began a lengthy period of incarceration, but the then regime ignored the result and detained many party members and supporters.

The NLD boycotted the next election, held in 2010 and won by a military-backed party after opposition complaints of rigging.

Her address on Sunday offered the most extensive detail yet of the policies she would bring to parliament.

In particular, she said she wanted to revise a 2008 army-drafted constitution that gives the military wide-ranging powers, including the ability to appoint key cabinet members, take control of the country in a state of emergency and occupy a quarter of the seats in parliament.

"We need to amend certain parts of the constitution," she said, adding the international community was poised to help Myanmar "once we are on an irreversible road to democracy."

She also said fighting between government soldiers and ethnic minority rebels had to be resolved. There has been heavy fighting recently in Kachin state but rebellions have simmered in many other regions since independence from Britain in 1948.

"Diversity is not something to be afraid of, it can be enjoyed," Suu Kyi said.

Although she has not started to campaign formally for the April 1 by-elections, the speech outside her office to supporters waving party flags and wearing T-shirts showing her face felt like a campaign stop.

"She's becoming more and more explicitly political and talking about the importance of policies," said a diplomat in the crowd. "I think it is the best speech I have heard from her."

Suu Kyi and her allies are contesting 48 seats in various legislatures including the 440-seat lower house in by-elections that could give political credibility to Myanmar and help advance the end of Western sanctions.

Business executives, mostly from Asia, have swarmed into Yangon in recent weeks to hunt for investment opportunities in the country of an estimated 60 million people, one of the last frontier markets in Asia.

Tags: Politics, World, Myanmar, SUU KYI, Constitution

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