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Suu Kyi hopes to surmount obstacles to presidency

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi said Wednesday that like the leader of any political party, she hopes to become her country’s president, despite the obstacles placed in her path.

“I know that many, many press people are surprised when I quite frankly say ‘yes I want to be president.’ I would . . . like to meet (the) leader of any political party who doesn’t really want to be the head of the government,” the 67-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate told reporters in Tokyo.

Suu Kyi said at the Japan National Press Club that she objects to the current military-backed constitution, which disqualifies her from running for president.

“There are certain parts of the constitution which I think were deliberately included to stop me from becoming president,” Suu Kyi said. “I don’t think any constitution in any way should be written with one person in mind, either to keep that person out (of) a certain position or (to) keep that person in a certain position. A constitution should be about the whole country.”

Under the current military-backed constitution, any Myanmar national who has foreign family members or holds foreign citizenship is disqualified from running as president or vice president. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British, thus she is unable to run for president.

A constitutional amendment needs approval from more than 75 percent of the Parliament, she said. As 25 percent of the legislature are army members nominated by their commander, Suu Kyi said it takes one brave soldier plus all the other civil representatives — a body dominated by President Thein Sein’s party — to amend the charter.

“We need to amend the constitution through agreement. . . . I want change in our country to be achieved through agreement between different forces in our country,” she said.

Suu Kyi, who heads the National League for Democracy, also stressed the importance of national reconciliation to achieve peace and unity in Myanmar, where violence has intensified between Muslims and Buddhists.

“Burma is made up of many ethnic groups, and since (it gained) its independence, there has never been a time when we have had complete peace” in our country, she said.

“The first step towards national reconciliation in our country should be establishment of rule of law,” Suu Kyi said. “Unless there is security, we will not be able to achieve national reconciliation. People cannot talk to one another and exchange views and try to find a harmonious solution until they feel safe with one another.”

During her 40-minute appearance, Suu Kyi did not talk about the fact that members of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority in Japan had been barred from attending events to welcome her, as reported by the media.

Invited by the Foreign Ministry, Suu Kyi is on a weeklong stay until Friday. It is her first visit in 27 years and comes after more then 14 years of house arrest under the former military junta. Suu Kyi is scheduled to meet Thursday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.