Military officials in eastern Myanmar’s Shan state have barred opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from landing at a local airport and prevented her from using a field for a public rally, disrupting her tour of the state as she drums up local support for constitutional reforms.
The charter flight carrying the 68-year-old Nobel laureate, who heads the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was rerouted some 90 miles (150 kilometers) east to Heho airport on Friday after it was refused permission to land at the military airbase in Nansang, according to party officials.
“They said Nansang airport is amilitary airport and that’s why they couldn’t allow a civilian airplane to land there,” local NLD chairman Tin Maung Toe told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Aung San Suu Kyi arrived around 4:30 p.m. in Heho before leaving by car for Nansang where she is expected to deliver a speech on Saturday.
The trip is part of her tour of three ethnic states this month to discuss proposed amendments to the country’s military-drafted constitution, which bars her from making a bid for the presidency in the 2015 elections.
Her itinerary also includes plans for speeches in the Shan towns of Mone and Laikha on Saturday, followed by a gathering in the state capital Taunggyi on Sunday.
Barred from rally site
Plans for the rally in Taunggyi, however, are up in the air after party officials were informed Friday that the Ayawwa hot air balloon field where they had planned to gather was military property and off-limits for an NLD gathering.
“The Minister of Shan State Security and Border Affairs told us they can’t let her use this field because it is owned by the military,” Tin Maung Toe said.
It was the first time both local residents and the NLD had heard that the field belonged to the military, he said.
“We just found out about this. They haven’t announced before that it is owned by the military.”
Local residents have planned to protest against the government next month over the announcement that it is military property, he said.
“They use this field for a balloon competition as a local tradition every year and they have known it to be a public field. Now, the military announced they own this field and local residents … don’t accept this announcement.”
In the meantime, the NLD has sent a special request to the Shan state chief minister for permission to use the field, and will gather at a nearby monastery if none is granted, Tin Maung Toe said.
Before Aung San Suu Kyi began the trip, her plans to meet with a local militia group in Homein were canceled after the group was pressured to call off the meeting by regional military officials, the Democratic Voice of Burma reported.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to Shan state came after she made similar visits to Chin state in the northwest and Kayin (Karen) state in the east earlier this month.
The three states are home to some of Myanmar’s largest ethnic minority groups, which are clamoring for changes to the 2008-written constitution that would give the states greater regional autonomy.
The NLD has called for sweeping changes to the document, including amendments that would put an end to the 25 percent of parliamentary seats reserved for the military.
It has also campaigned for the removal of provisions that bar Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president on the grounds that her two sons are foreign citizens.
Reported by Thiha Tun, Kyaw Myo Tun, and Zin Mar Win for RFA’s Myanmar Service, Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.