Myanmar political leaders to hold talks on amending constitution

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 25, 2014 10:18 PM

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's parliament has unanimously endorsed talks between the country’s top political leaders on amending a military-drafted constitution that bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from being president, a parliamentarian from her party said.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) has collected about five million signatures seeking reduced powers for unelected military members of parliament as the country, which emerged from 49 years of military dictatorship in 2011, moves towards an election next year.

But the parliamentary proposal for holding talks came not from the NLD, but from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is comprised largely of former military officers.

“USDP lawmaker Myint Tun submitted the proposal for holding a six-party summit to talk about amending the constitution in harmony with the present situation and it was approved unanimously,” Win Myint, an NLD MP, told Reuters.

He said the six participants will be Suu Kyi, President Thein Sein, Lower House speaker Shwe Mann, Upper House speaker Khin Aung Myint, military chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, and a member from one of the parties representing an ethnic minority.

A date has not been set for the talks.

U.S. President Barack Obama has also urged Myanmar to review its constitution. Standing next to Suu Kyi on Nov. 14 during a visit to the country’s largest city, Yangon, he said the law excluding her from the presidency "doesn't make much sense".

The constitutional clause excludes from the presidency anyone with children or a spouse who holds foreign citizenship. Suu Kyi's children are British as was her late husband.

Many believe the law was written specifically with Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi in mind. She remains wildly popular and her party - which swept a 1990 vote that was ignored by the military - is expected to do well in next year's election.

Gen. Min Aung Hlaing was quoted in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Nov. 23 saying that the clause was not directed at Suu Kyi.

(Writing by Jared Ferrie; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)