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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tokyo hears Thein Sein's Suu Kyi overture

Democracy icon has balked at taking seat over wording of oath

Kyodo

Myanmar President Thein Sein welcomed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be part of the legislature, saying it is up to her to decide to take the seat she won earlier this month amid a standoff between her party and the government over the wording of elected lawmakers' oath of constitutional allegiance.

News photo
Thein Sein

"Ms. Suu Kyi needs to decide whether she wants to enter Parliament or not," Thein Sein said Monday when asked during a group interview in Tokyo about the possibility of revising the wording.

"Myanmar's Parliament is all in favor of her entrance and very much welcoming her.

"For the benefit of Myanmar's people, I would like to cooperate with her by moving in the same direction," added the 67-year-old president, who was on a five-day visit to Japan through Tuesday. He also said he will "never make a U-turn" in the ongoing democratization process.

He said Myanmar's Constitution stipulates it can be revised with the support of a majority in Parliament, for the country's development.

Thein Sein also said he does not rule out the possibility of appointing Suu Kyi as a Cabinet member if she is willing to work for the future of the Southeast Asian country, which has a population of about 60 million.

But he pointed out that the current constitution does not allow a parliamentarian to become a member of the Cabinet.

"If she becomes part of the Cabinet, it means that she needs to work by only thinking about the country, not about her political party," he said. "It is up to her to decide."

Suu Kyi and other elected lawmakers of her National League for Democracy, who won historic by-elections April 1, did not attend the opening session of Parliament on Monday due to the disagreement over the wording of the oath.

Specifically, they seek to change the phrase "safeguard the constitution" to "respect the constitution."

The NLD has said the current wording contradicts the party's major election objective of revising the constitution, which was drafted and adopted before Thein Sein formed a reform-minded government in March 2011.

Despite the NLD's victories in the elections, Myanmar's Parliament is still dominated by the military and its allies.

During the interview at a Tokyo hotel, Thein Sein, a former general, said Myanmar's nation-building, after years of military repression, must be in accordance with public opinion and he pledged to make further efforts to realize national reconciliation, while showing some confidence in settling conflicts with ethnic minorities.

He also suggested foreign media organizations could open offices in Myanmar in the foreseeable future, saying it is "possible" after the level of reporting by Myanmar's media outlets and the country's democracy improve.

For Myanmar's future prosperity, the president said he wants to transform it into an industrialized country from a highly agricultural country, while at the same time underscoring the importance of food security as he expects the country's population to top 100 million in 25 years.

To that end, he expressed strong hope of attracting more investment and technology from Japan.



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