Suu Kyi talks federalism: Promises greater autonomy to Myanmar's minorities

Aung San Suu Kyi vowed to press for greater autonomy for the Myanmar's ethnic minorities, to soothe the rebellions roiling the country.

AFP April 18, 2016 11:32:15 IST
Suu Kyi talks federalism: Promises greater autonomy to Myanmar's minorities

Yangon: Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday vowed to press for greater autonomy for the nation's ethnic minorities, in an early move to soothe the rebellions roiling the country after her party's ascent to power.

The country has been swept up in optimism for a more peaceful and prosperous future since the National League for Democracy (NLD) took power from the military on 1 April.

Suu Kyi talks federalism Promises greater autonomy to Myanmars minorities

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. AP

But the democracy figurehead warned Myanmar's prospects pivot on ending ethnic conflicts that have blistered the country since its independence in 1948.

To do so, the National League for Democracy government will seek "a real federal democratic union," she said in a televised address marking Myanmar's New Year.

"Peace and a federal democratic union are closely intertwined and that's why we need to change the constitution. The most important thing is national reconciliation."

They were Suu Kyi's first major comments as "state counsellor" – a role she took on following the handover from an army that dominated the country for 50 years. The current charter, penned by the military in 2008, centralises power.

The pledge to create a federal set-up could reassure ethnic leaders that the NLD will govern for all, despite its leadership being drawn heavily from the Buddhist Bamar majority. The NLD swept up seats in many of Myanmar's ethnic areas in last year's election.

Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi is blocked from becoming president by the same charter as her two sons are not Myanmar citizens.

Attempts to amend the document under the former quasi- civilian government were stymied by the military – which is gifted 25 percent of all parliamentary seats by the constitution it scripted. Any moves to change the charter are likely to meet stiff resistance from the still-powerful military.

Suu Kyi has taken a firm grip of the country's first civilian-led government in decades by taking on a string of senior roles in the new administration, including the powerful – if vaguely defined – advisory role.

She has vowed to rule "above" the president, picking school friend and close aide Htin Kyaw as her proxy.

Conflicts continue to rage in several areas between ethnic minority armed groups and the army, which operates beyond the reaches of civilian government, after a ceasefire pact signed late last year failed to include all of the country's fighters.

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