Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has suggested that it is unfair for the country's ruling party to compel her two sons to take up Myanmar citizenship for her to be eligible to make a bid for the president's post in the 2015 elections.
President Thein Sein's Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) had this week proposed amending the country's constitution to pave the way for her to contest the presidency on condition that her two sons, who currently hold British citizenship, become Myanmar citizens.
The constitution, written by the previous military junta which had kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for nearly two decades, states that any one of a presidential candidate's parents, spouses, children or their spouses should not be a foreign citizen.
Aung San Suu Kyi said her two sons are above 21 years old and should be allowed to make their own decisions.
"Anyone's sons or daughters, if they are above 21 years old, we cannot legally make a decision for them. They are adults and have the right to make their own decision for their own good," she told RFA's Myanmar Service when asked to comment on the USDP's proposal to amend Article 59 (F) of the constitution to enable her to be in the running for the presidency in 2015.
Article 59 (F) states that "the president shall himself, one of the parents, the spouses, one of the legitimate children or their spouses not owe allegiance to a foreign power, not be subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country. They shall not be persons entitled to enjoy the rights and privileges of a subject of a foreign government and citizen of a foreign country."
While the USDP proposed that Aung San Suu Kyi's sons take up Myanmar citizenship, it also called for a deletion to a provision in Article 59 (F) which states that any of the spouses of children of a presidential candidate should not be a foreign citizen.
In the interview, Aung San Suu Kyi wondered who would benefit from the move.
"I know the proposed deletion of this requirement is not to benefit me but I don't know who will benefit from this," she said.
Many children of government and USDP leaders as well as military generals are married to foreigners.
Lack of enthusiasm
Aung San Suu Kyi said she felt the government was not really keen to amend the constitution.
"The NLD goal, since a series of by-elections in 2012, has always been to push for amendments to the constitution," she said. "We have been clear cut on this."
Some Myanmar experts believe that the USDP leadership, concerned over the rising popularity of Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD, may torpedo any plan to amend Article 59 (F).
Several hundred NLD supporters on Friday protested in front of the Yangon City Hall calling for the controversial article to be abolished.
President Thein Sein said on Thursday that he backed proposed changes to the constitution to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to bid for his post in the 2015 elections but said that any amendment should incorporate “principles to protect the country’s sovereignty.”
“I don’t want a situation that limits any Myanmar citizen from the political leadership of the country,” he said in a monthly radio address.
But he cautioned that any amendment to the charter should include “suitable basic principles to protect the country’s sovereignty,” without elaborating.
“In solving polarizing arguments on the current debate over [the qualifications of] leadership, we all are responsible for preventing a political crisis,” he said.
Many suspect that the constitutional provision preventing Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president was specifically designed by then military junta chief Than Shwe to clip her political ambitions.
There are other provisions aimed at keeping the military at the levers of power, rights groups say.
Under the constitution, a quarter of seats in parliament are reserved for the military. In addition, the military chief has sweeping powers when a state of emergency is declared. Three key ministerial posts—interior, defense and border affairs—must be held by serving generals.
The military's past behavior also cannot be questioned as the constitution allows immunity for all actions taken by Than Shwe's junta, which has been accused of blatant human rights abuses.
Reported by Khin Maung Soe for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung So. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.