Myanmar's Suu Kyi lauds choice of ethnic and army-backed parliamentary speakers

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 03, 2016 9:52 AM

By Hnin Yadana Zaw

NAYPYITAW (Reuters) - Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi pushed the message of national reconciliation on Wednesday, lauding the choice of representatives from ethnic minorities and the army-backed party as parliamentary speakers in a chamber dominated by her allies.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) won about 80 percent of elected seats in November's vote, catapulting it to power as Myanmar's ruling party after decades of struggle.

Suu Kyi still has to share power with the army that controls three security ministries and a quarter of the seats in parliament giving it the right to block any changes to the junta-made constitution.

The first sitting of parliament took place this week, as Myanmar goes through a drawn-out transition, which started with the election and will go on until the NLD government officially begins its term in April.

Apart from Suu Kyi's close acolyte Win Myint, who was appointed speaker of the lower house, both chambers nominated prominent politicians representing Myanmar's large ethnic minorities - Kachin, Karen and Rakhine for other top posts.

"I believe that the people elected by the parliament represent national reconciliation," Suu Kyi told reporters in parliament.

"When the NLD was facing difficulties, ethnic parties supported us ... we don't forget to be grateful to our allies," the Nobel Peace prize laureate said.

Ethnic conflict has plagued Myanmar since World War Two, with several groups fighting for greater autonomy.

One NLD choice was an ethnic Kachin from the army-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), T Khun Myat, who becomes deputy speaker of the lower house. He has been accused of being a drug lord when he ran a militia. He denies this.

"We chose T Khun Myat ... because the USDP is the second-largest party in the chamber. We went for someone from the USDP who is also an ethnic lawmaker. We want to include ethnic people because they represent the union," Suu Kyi said.

Although the NLD has a huge majority that allows it to make appointments without the backing of any other party, Suu Kyi made a point of thanking military lawmakers for their support.

"Thanks to the military parliamentarians for their cooperation and not going against us," she said.

"I think our people will be happy about this too."

(Editing by Louise Ireland)