Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday declared her intention to run for president, calling on all of the country’s people to share the fruits of its dramatic reforms.
Addressing the World Economic Forum on East Asia in the capital, Naypyidaw, the Nobel Peace laureate confirmed she had set her sights on elections due to be held in 2015.
“I want to run for president and I’m quite frank about it,” the veteran democracy activist told delegates. “If I pretended that I didn’t want to be president, I wouldn’t be honest.”
Burmese President Thein Sein’s government has surprised the world since replacing junta rule two years ago, leading to dramatic political and economic changes that have led to the lifting of most Western sanctions.
The reforms have stoked huge international interest in Myanmar — which is strategically located and has vast natural resources — and the forum is seen as a platform for the country to tout its potential to investors.
“You come to Myanmar at a pivotal moment in our history. We are working hard to move from military rule to democracy,” Thein Sein told delegates at the opening ceremony, adding that other goals were to permanently end the country’s civil wars and reform the economy.
“I promise you that we will not waver in this task,” he said.
One major change called for by the opposition is the reform of the military-drafted constitution, which effectively bars Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president because of a rule blocking anyone whose spouse or children are foreign citizens from being appointed by parliament.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s two sons with her late husband, Michael Aris, are British and the clause is widely believed to be targeted at her.
Changing certain parts of the text requires the support of more than 75 percent of the members of the fledgling parliament, a quarter of whom are unelected military officials, Aung San Suu Kyi said in a debate hosted by the BBC.
The opposition leader, who was locked up by the former junta for a total of 15 years, remains hugely popular in Myanmar and her National League for Democracy party.
She called for all of Myanmar’s people to be included in the reform process, warning that otherwise the changes could be jeopardized.
“If the people feel that they’re included in this reform process, then it will not be reversible — or at least it will not be easily reversible,” she said.
“But if there are too many people who feel excluded then the dangers of a reversal of the situation would be very great,” she said.