Thein Sein Not Gearing Up for 2015 Election

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Thein Sein gives a speech in Bangkok, April 29, 2013.
Thein Sein gives a speech in Bangkok, April 29, 2013.

Myanmar President Thein Sein said Friday that he is not preparing to run in elections in 2015 and that he would not oppose opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi vying for the top post.

Speaking in a television interview in France, the visiting reformist leader said it is up to Myanmar’s parliament to decide whether it will amend the country’s 2008 constitution, which bars Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency.  

He said he was not making plans for a bid in the next general election.

“As of now, I have not prepared myself to run in the upcoming 2015 presidential election,” Thein Sein said in the France 24 interview, speaking through an interpreter at the end of his first official visit to Paris.

The 68-year-old Thein Sein, a former military leader, has overseen a series of wide-ranging political and economic reforms in Myanmar since taking office in March 2011 after landmark elections the year before.

Previously he had said he would prefer not to run although it “depends on the needs of country and the wishes of the people.”

But in Friday’s interview he said he had no plans aside from working for a better future for Myanmar.

“I’d like to bring peace to my country, bring social and economic development which the people have been longing for, and … build a better future for the young people of Myanmar; that’s all I have in mind.”

Aung San Suu Kyi and the Constitution

Thein Sein also said that he would not stand in the way if parliament decided to amend the constitution to pave the way for Aung San Suu Kyi to bid for the presidency.

The charter, written during the military junta regime, has a provision blocking anyone whose spouse or children are foreign citizens from becoming president.  Aung San Suu Kyi's two sons with her late British husband hold U.K. citizenship, and the clause is widely believed to be targeted at her.

The Nobel laureate has said she wants to go for the post if her party wins the 2015 elections. Shwe Mann, speaker of the Lower House of parliament and chairman of Thein Sein’s Union Development and Solidarity Party, has also said he is interested in the presidency.

“If the parliamentarians and the people decide to amend the constitution, I have nothing to say; I just have to follow their decision,” Thein Sein said, adding that some amendments to the constitution would require a referendum.

“As far as Aung San Suu Kyi’s candidacy is concerned, I have no objections.”

The opposition has also sought to revise parts of the constitution that reserve a quarter of seats in parliament for members of the military.

Martyrs’ Day

Thein Sein’s remarks came as Myanmar commemorated Martyrs’ Day with a revived tribute to slain independence hero Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi’s father.

Horns and sirens blared in the streets at 10:37 am in a resurrection of an old tradition marking the exact time Aung San—considered the father of modern Myanmar—and eight others were assassinated 66 years ago, shortly before the country’s independence.

Aung San Suu Kyi pays her respects at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon, July 19, 2013. Photo credit: RFA.
Aung San Suu Kyi pays her respects at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon, July 19, 2013. Photo credit: RFA. RFA
Public displays of celebration for the holiday were long forbidden by the country’s former military rulers, largely because of the popularity of Aung San Suu Kyi.

State-owned radio stations used to broadcast sirens in her father’s honor but the custom was stopped for many years.  

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was kept under house arrest by the military junta until 2010 and elected to parliament in April last year, took part in a state ceremony at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Yangon on Friday followed by an event at her NLD headquarters and a reception at her residence.  

Shwe Mann, whom Aung San Suu Kyi asked on Thursday for assistance in pushing for constitutional amendments, attended the reception at her residence.    

In a speech at the NLD event, Aung San Suu Kyi said that although Martyrs’ Day is generally considered a sorrowful occasion, it should also be a chance to consider the kind of leaders Myanmar should have in the future.

“We could fill up our strength and take pride in the feeling that we had these leaders in the past and we have the possibility to have these kinds of leaders again in the future.”

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

Comments (1)

Anonymous Reader

from Vancouver, WA, USA

Remarkable to consider the impact of Thein Sein's leadership on this issue of a law-abiding transfer of power. How many nations have lost peace and freedom when a leader has determined to cling to power by first stepping outside the boundaries of law, and then changing the law to continue their term of office. If Thein Sein continues his remarkable leadership in the commitment to the rule of law in this issue, Myanmar's freedom will become increasingly robust and secure.

Aug 16, 2013 05:05 AM





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