Aung San Suu Kyi Seeks National Reconciliation Talks With Myanmar Leaders

myanmar-assk-speech-nld-hq-nov9-2015.jpg Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R), flanked by party patron Tin Oo (L), delivers a speech from the balcony of the National League of Democracy headquarters in Yangon, Nov. 9, 2015.

UPDATED at 9:20 p.m. EST on 2015-11-11

Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday called for “national reconciliation” meetings with Myanmar’s president, military commander-in-chief and speaker of the lower house of parliament, as her opposition National League for Democracy party claimed 87 percent of the vote from Sunday’s national elections.

“A peaceful implementation of the people’s desire, which they expressed via the Nov. 8 elections, is very important for the country’s dignity and people’s peace of mind,” she wrote in three letters dated Tuesday to President Thein Sein, General Min Aung Hlaing and Shwe Mann.

Based on vote counting as of Wednesday evening, the NLD has won 179 seats in the 440-member lower house of parliament and 77 in the 224-seat upper house, according to Myanmar’s Union Election Commission. The NLD needs 77 more lower house seats to be able to form a government  by itself.

But it was not entirely clear if Aung San Suu Kyi had requested a single meeting with all three men or three separate meetings.

“What I understand is that it doesn’t mean a four-party meeting,” said Min Ko Naing, a member of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group, formerly known as the 88 Generation Students, which has been working with the NLD to ensure free and fair elections. “Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi will meet with each leader separately. Anyway, they must meet, if they are going to discuss a peaceful power transfer.”

Ye Htut, the president’s spokesperson and information minister, said he replied to Aung San Suu Kyi Wednesday morning that Thein Sein would meet with her after the UEC completed the official tally. The body is expected to announce the final results in about two weeks.

“He [Thein Sein] also added that we will meet with political leaders for stability in the post-election transitional period,” Ye Htut told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

Thein Sein congratulated Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday and along with his military-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) assured a peaceful transfer of power.

“Holding this free and fair election is a victory for the Burmese people and as well as the victory for the president’s reform process,” Ye Htut said, adding that the policy enabled all people and political forces to participate.

“Regarding the election results, unlike other democracies, our government has been judged by the voters not only for the current five-year term, but for the whole 50 plus years of the military-dominated period,” he said. “That's why, in my opinion, the NLD has won a landslide victory in the elections.”

Shwe Mann wrote on his Facebook page that he had received Aung San Suu Kyi’s letter and wanted to hold the meeting next week.

“Both the president and military chief now know the people’s wishes and attitudes,” said writer Kyaw Yin Myint. “It’s time they work according to people’s attitudes.”

Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday also congratulated Aung San Suu Kyi's party for "winning a majority" in the landmark polls and agreed to talk to her. He had said previously that the military would uphold the results of the first free election in a quarter century, even though his relationship with Aung San Suu Kyi is reportedly strained.

The army chief posted a message on the military's official Facebook page, saying, "We congratulate the NLD for winning a majority of seats." He said he would meet with the NLD chief after all the official results are declared by election authorities.

People should ask if the new government will consider the military as colleague or as an organization that is not acceptable,” Ye Htut said. “The important things we should do in the post-election period is implement the peace process and maintain stability.”

The current constitution, drafted in 2008 when a military junta ruled the country, give military representatives considerable power because they are automatically appointed to a quarter of the seats in both chambers of parliament.

In addition, the military commander-in-chief nominates the heads of the powerful defense, interior and border security ministries.

Necessary for national reconciliation

The meetings Aung San Suu Kyi has proposed with the president, commander-in-chief and lower house speaker are necessary to realize full national reconciliation, said Aye Thar Aung, leader of the Arakan National Party, which represents the interests of the voters of western Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

The government tried to attain national reconciliation with the country’s various armed ethnic groups in the run-up to the elections, but was only able to sign a peace accord with eight of them in mid-October. Such a deal is necessary to end decades of civil war and move on to political dialogue.

“For national reconciliation, this meeting is needed,” he said. “But, this meeting shouldn’t be for show like the previous talks,” he said, referring to high-level six-party talks on constitutional change last April among Thein Sein, upper house speaker Khin Aung Myint, Min Aung Hlaing, Aung San Suu Kyi, ethnic party representative Aye Maung and Shwe Mann.

Aung San Suu Kyi was spearheading proposed amendments to the constitution that would limit the power of military representatives, but parliament rejected the changes.

“It would be great if they can discuss stopping civil war, national reconciliation with ethnic groups and building a federal union,” Aye Thar Aung said.

Maung Maung Ohn, former chief minister of Rakhine state who won an upper house seat as a USDP candidate from Ann township, also said the election outcome indicated the people’s desire for change.

“People want changes,” he said. “We will do what we need to do for people. I will collaborate with all people if we can do good things for people.”

The military has been at loggerheads with Aung San Suu Kyi since 1990, where the NLD had swept national elections, but the then-ruling junta ignored the results and placed her under house arrest for more than a decade.

Two decades later, the NLD boycotted national elections in which Thein Sein’s military-backed government took power, amid concerns they were not free and fair.

The military also had added a clause to the country’s constitution, barring anyone with foreign relatives from becoming president to prevent Aung San Suu Kyi, whose late husband was a British national, as are her two sons, from ever leading the country.

Despite this, Aung San Suu Kyi has said the NLD will put forward another politician to assume the presidency, while she will be “above the president” and run the government.

Reported by Thinn Thiri, Khin Khin Ei and Kyaw Tun Naing for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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