Myanmar’s indomitable opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has entwined her life with the politics of her country, but as she turned 70 yesterday, “The Lady” is facing one of the greatest challenges of her decades-long freedom fight.
While her National League for Democracy (NLD) party is expected to triumph at key elections this year, Aung San Suu Kyi’s pathway to the presidency is blocked by a controversial clause in Myanmar’s junta-era constitution.
With polls slated for November, time is running out to change the contested clause before the vote and Aung San Suu Kyi’s advancing age adds urgency to her quest of leading a democratic Myanmar.
Analyst Mael Reynaud said Aung San Suu Kyi was likely to defer an attempt to take the top job, but added much would depend on her acceptance by the country’s old elites, in the form of the army and current ruling party, which remains dominated by former generals.
“The fact that she’s getting older is indeed one further reason why she would want to get the constitution changed before the 2020 elections so she could become the president then,” he told reporters.
Locked away for years by a former junta fearful of her huge popular support, Aung San Suu Kyi’s decision to compromise with former military figures has seen her take a seat in parliament and opened the way for her hermetic homeland to step onto the global stage.
It is in keeping with her reputation for non-violent opposition to the junta, a fight that earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and near rock star status at home and abroad.
How she planned to spend her birthday is unclear, but tomorrow she is expected to speak to hundreds of NLD supporters at a Yangon restaurant, as the nation’s focus intensifies on the polls.
While still wildly popular, the rough and tumble of political life has muddied Aung San Suu Kyi’s once flawless image.
She has faced censure for a reluctance to speak out on behalf of the country’s maligned Muslim population.
She has also been criticized for failing to nurture a political successor within the NLD, meaning the party has no alternative presidential candidate to propose, regardless of how well it does in the polls.
A president is to be selected by parliament after the elections.
The Burmese constitution excludes those with foreign spouses and children from top political office — Aung San Suu Kyi’s two sons are British.
The charter also enshrines the military’s continued political clout with a quarter of parliamentary seats — a voting bloc that army members of parliament have vowed to use to stop major amendments.
As the daughter of the country’s adored independence leader, having spent years abroad and a swathe of international dignitaries, including US President Barack Obama, among her avowed admirers, Aung San Suu Kyi’s political pedigree is unmatched in Myanmar, according to biographer Peter Popham.
“There is nobody she could pick who she could deal with on equal terms,” he told reporters.
It is a view reflected on the streets of Yangon.
“There is no one like her,” 43-year-old driver Wai Lin said.
Without an heir, the veteran activist could opt to throw her support behind a reformist member of the former military regime as a compromise presidential candidate.
International Crisis Group said that possibility is a major source of uncertainty in the country’s political transition.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s transformation into a democracy champion happened almost by accident after she returned from Britain to the country formerly known as Burma in 1988 to nurse her sick mother.
Soon afterward, protests erupted against its military rulers, who crushed the uprising with a crackdown that left at least 3,000 people dead.
Aung San Suu Kyi proved to be a charismatic orator and took a leading role in the burgeoning pro-democracy movement, delivering speeches to crowds of hundreds of thousands.
Alarmed by the support she commanded, the generals ordered her first stint of house arrest in 1989.
She was locked up by the junta for a total of 15 years, mostly in her crumbling lakeside mansion in Yangon, without a telephone and with only the company of two female aides.
However, the struggle for her country came at a high personal cost: Aung San Suu Kyi was unable to see her husband Michael Aris before his death from cancer in 1999, and missed seeing her sons grow up.
The then-ruling junta refused Aris a visa to visit her and Aung San Suu Kyi did not attempt to leave Myanmar during her few periods of freedom, fearing she would never be allowed to return.
Despite Aung San Suu Kyi’s confinement, the NLD swept a national vote in 1990 by a landslide, but was never allowed to take power.
In her role as an a member of parliament — she entered parliament in 2012 after landmark by-elections — she has appeared willing to find consensus and compromise.
However, as the party gears up for its best chance of political power in a quarter century, she has yet to fully commit to taking part.
“No one can know what will happen, so we have to calculate for every possibility,” she told reporters in the capital Naypyidaw in April.
India has moved additional troops along its northern border as it prepares for an extended conflict with China, after several rounds of talks failed to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. China has already placed about 5,000 soldiers and armored vehicles within its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh region, an Indian government official said, asking not to be identified, citing rules. India is adding a similar number of troops as well as artillery guns along the border to fend off the continuing incursions by the Chinese army, the official said. The standoff began on May 5, when troops clashed
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
Indonesian officials are forcing people who break social distancing rules to recite Koran verses, stay in “haunted” houses and submit to public shaming on social media as the country battles to contain surging novel coronavirus infections. The Southeast Asian archipelago began deploying about 340,000 troops across two dozen cities to oversee enforcement of measures aimed at halting transmission of the disease, such as wearing masks in public. However, provincial leaders are buttressing these efforts with their own zealous campaigns to fight the coronavirus. Police in western Bengkulu Province have assembled a 40-person squad to find lockdown scofflaws and force them to wear