Burma’s Suu Kyi holds talks with president in first step to power
The Nobel laureate swept to power in November but needs workable ties with the military
Burma’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi held talks with president Thein Sein on Wednesday, the first of two key meetings as her election-winning party prepares to take power in a country crippled by decades of military rule.
The Nobel laureate’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept a November 8th election with an absolute majority and is due to take office early next year. But crucial to a smooth debut in government would be workable ties with the military, which retains considerable power.
Among Suu Kyi’s first post-victory moves was to ask for reconciliation talks with reformist ex-general Thein Sein and armed forces supremo Min Aung Hlaing, whose military runs the interior, defence and border affairs ministries under a constitution drafted before the end of its half-century rule.
Suu Kyi arrived at Thein Sein’s residence in the Burmese capital Naypyitaw on Wednesday morning, according to a president’s office official. She was due to meet Min Aung Hlaing in the afternoon.
The charter enshrines a potentially troublesome power-sharing arrangement between the armed forces and an elected ruling party, regardless of the size of its public mandate. The military argues that is necessary to protect a fledgling democracy and maintain peace.
Suu Kyi (70) wants to work with the military but has been clear about wanting to change parts of the constitution, including a clause that bars her from becoming president because her two children are foreign citizens.
It is uncertain whether the NLD plans to tread carefully once it take office, or take a risk by launching another push to reduce the political role of the armed forces. The military gets a quarter of legislative seats under the constitution and that amounts to holding a veto on changing the charter.
Both Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing have endorsed the election win and offered support in ensuring a smooth transition to the new government between February and April next year, easing jitters about possible turbulence.
Suu Kyi has taken a more conciliatory tone towards the military since becoming a lawmaker but her meeting with Min Aung Hlaing comes after she spoke out at against him in June for influencing military legislators.
After the bloc voted in unison to keep its veto powers, Suu Kyi said: “He’s not elected by the people, so why does he have the right to decide?”