Bloomberg News

Suu Kyi Seeks Myanmar Oath Change Before Parliament Entry

April 23, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League For Democracy. Photographer: Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League For Democracy. Photographer: Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images

Myanmar’s president said he has no plans to change an oath taken by incoming lawmakers as demanded by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, Kyodo News reported, signaling a potential row following April 1 by-elections.

Suu Kyi must decide herself whether to be part of parliament, Thein Sein told reporters today in Tokyo, according to the report, whoch was carried on the Mainichi newspaper’s website. Thein Sein said he would welcome Suu Kyi to the lawmaking body and that he looks forward to working with her, according to Kyodo.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won’t join Parliament until an oath requiring parliamentarians to “protect” the constitution is changed, according to spokesman Han Tha Myint. The NLD’s stand comes as western nations prepare to ease sanctions and engage the country as it emerges from five decades of military rule.

“We can reach some sort of solution to this,” Han Tha Myint said by phone today from Yangon, without speculating on how long the negotiations may last. “The democratization process will go on. We wish to fulfill the wishes of voters, who want us to be inside the parliament.”

European Union foreign ministers will probably suspend most sanctions against Myanmar when they meet today, an official told reporters in Brussels last week on condition of anonymity. The U.S. has pledged to lift trade and financial restrictions on certain sectors of the economy.

‘Just a Hiccup’

The NLD demand “is just a hiccup,” said Thaung Tun, a retired Myanmar diplomat who is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “Since Aung San Suu Kyi decided to participate in the process she knew full well from the beginning what the oath was, so I think they will find a way to find a compromise. It would be bad for the country if it went for very long.”

Suu Kyi rejoined the political process last year after a similar wording change to a law governing political parties. Her party’s election win this month prompted the U.S. and European Union to reassess sanctions against Myanmar in a reward for Thein Sein’s shift to democracy.

Suu Kyi’s party boycotted a 2010 election because it opposed the military-drafted constitution, which automatically grants 25 percent of seats to the armed forces. Changing the document requires the approval of more than 75 percent of the 664-member national parliament, which is dominated by Thein Sein’s party and the military.

The NLD won’t oppose using the oath required of the country’s president and vice president, which says they must “uphold and abide” by the constitution, Han Tha Myint said. The NLD won 43 of 45 by-election seats on April 1, including 37 in the lower house, four in the upper house and two in regional assemblies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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