Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed regret Wednesday over attempts by some groups to scuttle talks among the country’s leaders on constitutional reforms.
She made the statement after the Yangon regional parliament approved a motion calling for 12-way talks on constitutional amendments that would include President Thein Sein, the armed forces chief, the speakers of both houses of parliament, Aung San Suu Kyi ,and representatives from seven major ethnic groups.
The motion came just after the country’s parliament unanimously adopted a motion seeking six-way talks among Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi, lower house of parliament speaker Shwe Mann, upper house speaker Khin Aung Mying, armed forces commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, and a representative for the country’s ethnic group.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who is head of the National League for Democracy, initially had wanted four-way talks between her, Thein Sein, Shwe Mann, and Min Aung Hlaing, but the proposal was not warmly received by the leadership of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Thein Sein then held largely symbolic talks among 14 representatives from political parties and ethnic and other groups last month where participants presented their views on constitutional changes and other reform issues.
Aung Saun Suu Kyi said the proposal by the Yangon parliament for 12-way talks was intended to thwart efforts to hold discussions on amending the constitution, which currently gives the armed forces vast powers despite the end of military rule three years ago.
“When I asked for a four-way talks, it appeared as though 14-party talks would be held, then six-party talks were proposed, and now 12-party talks,” she told RFA Myanmar Service’s “Hard Road to Democracy” program.
“I want to say, frankly, that they [lawmakers] are doing this with the intention of not holding real discussions.”
The Yangon parliament accepted the motion based on a proposal by ethnic Karen lawmaker Tun Aung Myint. The proposal will be sent to Thein Sein, who can reject it or refer it to the country’s parliament with additional input.
“When we discussed amending the constitution, we decided it was not enough to have only one representative from the ethnic groups,” said Tin Win, the Yangon Region Minister for Border Affairs and Security.
“I assume that the discussion would not be perfect unless we included more representatives from other ethnic groups such as Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon, and Shan. That’s why I supported the proposal of Karen MP Tun Aung Myint to be approved by parliament.”
Some lawmakers voted against the motion calling for 12-party talks.
Tun Aung Myint said he had submitted the proposal because he believed the inclusion of more ethnic representatives would likely produce successful discussions, according to The Irrawaddy online journal.
The Yangon parliament wanted to break the deadlock after Thein Sein and military chief Min Aung Hlaing rejected the idea for six-party talks.
A lawmaker in the Sagaing Division parliament in northwestern Myanmar also submitted a proposal on Tuesday calling for multiparty talks to include various ethnic representatives, including two from his own division, The Irrawaddy reported.
Myanmar’s constitution grants the military significant power by giving it control of a quarter of the legislature and a crucial veto over constitutional amendments.
It also contains an article that would prevent Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president should her National League for Democracy (NLD) party win the 2015 general elections, because her two sons are British citizens as was her late husband.
Reported by Khin Maung Soe of RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.