The rule of law in BurmaPosted: 20/06/2012
The rule of law will be vital to ensuring that the recent changes in Myanmar continue, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi underlined yesterday. During her first visit to her former home, the United Kingdom, in 24 years the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former political prisoner said at the London School of Economics (above) that unity in her country would only be achieved within a legal framework.
On the BBC’s Newsnight programme broadcast yesterday evening, presenter Kirsty Wark reminded the Burmese icon that her party, the National League for Democracy, had at first argued that it was undemocratic to have 25% of the seats in parliament reserved for the military: ‘So, presumably that is one of your earliest priorities, to change the constitution?’
Aung San Suu Kyi replied that: ‘Well, quite recently the … defence minister said at a conference in Singapore that the military had no intention of holding on to the 25% forever, and that when the time was right they would decrease their … role in parliament. So that was not bad to begin with, and this after we had said that we wanted amendments to the constitution.’
The conference in question was the Shangri-La Dialogue 2012, and Aung San Suu Kyi was referring to the question and answer session with Lieutenant General Hla Min. In response to a question from Richard Lloyd Parry of the Times newspaper in London, the Myanmar defence minister said:
‘As for Aung San Suu Kyi, when she said she had accepted the president’s sincerity in our reforms, she also took the view that we could not dispense with our tatmadaw (military), which was set up by her father, General Aung San; she had this type of relationship with our tatmadaw. The tatmadaw has the 100% support of the president.’
Using quite a colourful analogy, he continued: ‘As for the 25% participation in the parliament, to be frank it is like, for example, if you have a fish in fresh water. You cannot put the fish into salt water,’ he said (clearly alluding to the need to move fish slowly from pond to sea via the slow introduction of seawater).
‘So we need to take time for transformation and progress. In our history, we have never been separated from the tatmadaw. So in this new government, this 25% participation which is in the constitution does not mean that it is completely rigid. According to rules and regulations, there are ways and means to improve on and change the constitutional articles, not as a dogma. So when the time is appropriate there would be changes and this 25% participation could be reduced in the future, if and when it is appropriate. That I want to impress upon you.’