Politics, Asia - Pacific

Myanmar: Marchers demand Suu Kyi does not become president

Nationalist monk tells Anadolu Agency that Suu Kyi becoming president doesn't bother him, but warns she should never try and change race and religion laws, seen to be aimed at Muslim population

28.02.2016
 Myanmar: Marchers demand Suu Kyi does not become president YANGON, MYANMAR - FEBRUARY 28: People are seen during a Buddhist nationalist rally in Yangon, Myanmar on February 28, 2016 staged against any changes to an article of the country’s constitution that bars Aung San Suu Kyi – the president of the party that won national elections, the National league for democracy — from becoming the country’s next president. ( Aung Naing Soe - Anadolu Ajansı )

Yangon

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar

Buddhist nationalists have staged a demonstration calling on authorities not to amend or postpone an article of the constitution that bars election victor Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming the country’s next president.

Around 600 people -- among them many Buddhist monks -- joined a march in former capital Yangon on Sunday, organized by the Myanmar National Affairs Network.

Most of the marchers wore white T-Shirts emblazoned with a bright red 59, and the slogan: “Section 59 of the constitution is untouchable. It must be protected from national security angle."

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won the Nov. 8 election in a landslide, securing the position of choosing the new president who will rule Myanmar for the next five years.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, however, is blocked from taking the post under article 59(f) of the military-draft constitution which many suspect is aimed solely at her and bars anyone with foreign relatives -- Suu Kyi’s two sons are British citizens -- from becoming president.

NLD lawmakers have said they plan to submit a proposal to suspend article 59 (f) to parliament.

On Sunday, one of the demonstration's organizers told Anadolu Agency that those attending would fight to stop Suu Kyi taking up the position.

“We will constantly oppose any effort to postpone or amend the section 59 of the constitution for an individual person or for an organization,” said Win Ko Ko Lat.

“We believe this section of the constitution protects our country from being influenced by foreign countries... We – the nationalist activists -- will never accept such effort."

The demonstrators urged parliament -- dominated by Suu Kyi’s party -- not to allow any effort to succeed.

Several media reports have suggested that Suu Kyi could still become president, reporting that negotiations between the NLD and the military are ongoing.

The clause can be suspended, but it would require a two-thirds majority in a parliament of which the military holds 25 percent of the nominated seats.

According to the army-run Myawaddy newspaper the military, however, has made clear that it considers any change unconstitutional.

“If NLD make such effort by force, there is probably a military coup,” demonstration organizer Win Ko Ko Lat told Anadolu Agency.

Among Sunday's marchers were around a dozen monks from Buddhist nationalist hardline group Ma Ba Tha -- also known as the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion.

However, not all members were in agreement.

“I think postponement of 59 (f) is not a big threat to country,” prominent Ma Ba Tha monk Pamaukkha -- who did not attend the demonstration -- told Anadolu Agency by phone on Sunday.

“Suu Kyi deserves the post. I think there is a way Suu Kyi can be elected as the country’s next president,” he added.

Pamaukkha warned, however, that Ma Ba Tha would never allow Suu Kyi to change a set of controversial laws seen to be aimed at the country’s Muslim population.

“But I want to warn NLD not to touch the 1982 Citizenship Law and four Race and Religion Laws,” he underlined.

Under pressure from Ma Ba Tha, the outgoing government led by President Thein Sein -- a former junta leader -- enacted four controversial Race and Religion Protection Laws.

The laws were received with outrage by the international community as they are widely viewed as a tool to suppress the country’s minority groups, in particular the around one million Muslim Rohingya interned in camps in western Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state.

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