No Government Post for Suu Kyi

The opposition leader and Burma’s president hold their second round of talks.
2012-04-11
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Aung San Suu Kyi (l) on her way to meet with Thein Sein in Naypyidaw, April 11, 2012.
AFP

Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not take on any government post following her historic election to parliament, her aide said Wednesday after she held fresh talks with President Thein Sein.

The president met with the Nobel Laureate in Naypyidaw Wednesday in their first talks since Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory in April 1 by-elections positioned her National League for Democracy (NLD) as the main opposition party in parliament.

The meeting was believed to be part of efforts toward political reconciliation between the opposition and President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian administration which came to power in March last year, ending decades of direct military rule.

After the talks, Aung San Suu Kyi’s security officer, Khun Thar Myint, dismissed speculation that she could be taking on a role in Thein Sein’s administration after she enters office later this month.

“We have already said we won't take it, even if there is an offer,” he said when asked by RFA whether Aung San Suu Kyi would accept a government post as the president had hinted.

Before the by-elections that brought her into office, President Thein Sein had said in November that Aung San Suu Kyi could be assigned a “suitable position” after she got voted into parliament.

Last month, Aung San Suu Kyi said she would not give up her seat in parliament to take on a cabinet post that would compel her to give up her role as a legislator.

"I have no intention of leaving the parliament to which I have tried so hard to get into," she told reporters in March.

Second-round talks

The two leaders did not reveal the details of their discussion, which was the second meeting in eight months, but Aung San Suu Kyi said she was “satisfied” with the talks.

“The purpose of our trip [to meet with Thein Sein] was to discuss how the government and NLD parliamentary members can work together in a way that will be helpful for supporting the president, for development, and for fulfilling the needs of the country,” Khun Thar Myint said.

“It was good,” he added.

He said the two talked behind closed doors for one and a half hours at the president’s private residence, followed by lunch with the first lady before the NLD side flew back to Rangoon.

“I don't know the details of the discussion, as the two met behind closed doors.  There will not be an announcement [of what they discussed],” he said.

Advisory role

The NLD’s sweeping win in the by-elections, in which it took 43 of the 44 seats up for grabs, could pave the way for Aung San Suu Kyi to run for the Burmese presidency in 2015, when the next general elections are scheduled to be held.

Even if Aung San Suu Kyi is not assigned a government post, she has not ruled out taking on an advisory role within parliament, particularly regarding ethnic minority conflicts which have gripped the country since its independence in 1948.

Aung San Suu Kyi has said that ending ethnic conflict would be one of her top priorities in office and has called for a “second Panglong Conference,” like the one her father, Burmese independence leader General Aung San, negotiated with ethnic minority groups in 1947.

Another issue the NLD has made a top priority is the amendment of the 2008 constitution, which was written by the then-ruling military junta.

Following Aung San Suu Kyi’s and Thein Sein’s talks Wednesday, NLD spokesman Nyan Win said the NLD objected to an oath for new members of parliament that requires them to “protect” the constitution.

He indicated the swearing in of the NLD’s parliamentary representatives, some of whom have been invited to attend the resumption of a parliamentary session on April 23, could be delayed unless the wording of the oath is changed.

"It is impossible for NLD elected candidates to take that oath when they join parliament," spokesman Nyan Win said.

"So our NLD candidates will not be able to attend ... but if this wording is changed before the upcoming session ends, it will pave the way for our candidates to attend parliament."

The NLD wants to reword the oath so that it requires political parties to "respect and obey" the constitution, instead of "preserve and protect" it.

Reported by Nayrein Kyaw for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khin May Zaw. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.