Date
13 December 2017
File photo of US President Barack Obama and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence in Yangon in 2012. Photo: AFP
File photo of US President Barack Obama and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence in Yangon in 2012. Photo: AFP

Washington takes hands-off stance on Suu Kyi

United States President Barack Obama is not opposing the Myanmar government’s decision to bar Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from running in next year’s presidential election, Reuters reported, citing US officials.

Obama, who visits Myanmar next week, will still be pushing for democratic reforms in the Southeast Asian country, but he wants to maintain his influence with the government, which is led by some of the same former generals who kept her under house arrest for 15 years, the report said.

Whether or not Suu Kyi is allowed to run is “not the standard we’re setting” to judge whether the 2015 electoral outcome is credible, a senior US official who refused to be identified told the news agency.

Clarification of Washington’s hands-off stance on Suu Kyi’s political future comes at a time when Myanmar’s leaders have been widely accused of backsliding in the transition process.

Although Myanmar ended 49 years of direct military rule in 2011 and launched reforms, its leaders remain deeply suspicious of Suu Kyi.

“What’s important is that the people of Burma debate what the future of their democracy is,” the official said in Washington, referring to Myanmar by its former name.

“We can’t prejudice the outcome, nor would we as a modern democracy. We’re not going to weigh in and say a certain person should run in the election.”

Suu Kyi is ineligible for the presidency, according to Myanmar’s military-drafted constitution which bars candidates with a foreign child or spouse. Her late husband was British, as are her two sons.

The military’s significant presence in parliament gives it veto power on any attempt to change the constitution, the report said.

The US official said Obama would press for an election that is “free, fair, open and credible” and seek unspecified constitutional changes.

Obama will also press Myanmar’s leaders to end persecution of religious minorities including Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine State, the official was quoted as saying.

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RA/CG

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