Obama, Suu Kyi demand reforms in Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi


Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi

US President Barack Obama and Myanmarese opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi ¬†demanded reforms in the Myanmar constitution to allow “free and transparent” elections for a fully representative democracy.

Obama called for “inclusive” changes in the constitution before general elections scheduled for 2015.

The constitution of Myanmar, once known as Burma, prevents Suu Kyi from running for president because she was married to a foreigner and her children have British nationality.

Suu Kyi said she was confident that negotiations would bring reforms demanded by the society.

The leader of the opposition National League for Democracy also reiterated the anti-democratic and discriminatory character of the 2008 constitution, approved by the military junta which then ruled the country.

With one-fourth of the total parliamentary seats and one-third of the senate seats reserved for it, the army has the power to vote down laws it does not like, as well as those that need more than 75 percent of votes in favour.

Obama met with Myanmarese President Thein Sein in Nay Pyi Taw Thursday and highlighted the changes in the country since the military junta transferred most powers to a civilian government in 2011.

The changes emphasized by the US president included the releasing of thousands of political prisoners, the opening of the economy, efforts to negotiate peace agreements with restive ethnic minorities and greater access to the media.

Obama said that the US would strengthen its relationship with Myanmar if there is further improvement.

He also called for greater commitment from authorities regarding the rule of law, improvement in press freedom and reforms respecting the rights of the minorities, especially the Muslim Rohingya minority.

Obama demanded a peaceful solution to the situation in the western state of Rakhine where 140,000 Rohingyas live in refugee camps in unhealthy conditions, as well as an end to discrimination and opportunities for all.

“If you want democracy, you must demonstrate its principles,” Aung San Suu Kyi said, adding that violence does not solve anything, so rule of law is important.

Obama is on his second visit to Myanmar, and will travel to Brisbane, Australia, Friday night to attend the G20 summit at the weekend.