Myanmar president backs changes for presidential requirements

Jan. 3, 2014 at 12:25 PM
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NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Myanmar President Thein Sein said he backs changing the country's constitution to allow "any citizen" to become president, regardless of family circumstances.

Thein Sein said Thursday it would be "healthy" to occasionally amend the constitution to address "the national, economic and social needs of our society," the New York Times reported.

Thein Sein also said he "would not want restrictions being imposed on the right of any citizen to become the leader of the country," apparently referring to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi whose political ambitions have been blunted by the country's military junta for decades.

Myanmar's constitution, written by the junta, bars presidential and vice presidential candidates from having close family members who "owe allegiance to a foreign power." Analysts said the provision was written specifically to block Suu Kyi because two sons with her British husband were born in Britain and live outside Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Thein Sein made his remarks Thursday as Myanmar began confronting the issue of Suu Kyi's possible candidacy, which has loomed over the democracy that emerged from military junta rule in 2011. Suu Kyi and her allies indicated they may boycott the 2015 elections if the law is not changed.

The president's comments come after the largest political party in the country, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, offered a list of proposed amendments to the constitution, including some minor changes to the qualifications for president. Lawmakers, however, kept the clause requiring a candidate's children to be Myanmar citizens.

Party member U Khin Maung Htoo said if Suu Kyi wanted to qualify for president, "her two sons must apply for Burmese citizenship and give up foreign citizenship," the Times said.

Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest before her release in 2010, criticized the constitutional provision, telling Radio Free Asia the nationality of adult children was irrelevant and the requirement "does not fit with democratic values."

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