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Myanmar Military Chief Denies Presidency Ban Targets Aung San Suu Kyi

  • Alex Villarreal

FILE - General Min Aung Hlaing talks to journalists at a meeting of ASEAN defense chiefs in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 5, 2014.

FILE - General Min Aung Hlaing talks to journalists at a meeting of ASEAN defense chiefs in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 5, 2014.

The military chief of Myanmar, also known as Burma, has told VOA the constitutional clause barring opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president is not aimed at her in particular.

In an exclusive interview with VOA's Burmese Service, General Min Aung Hlaing said the limitation closing off the presidency to anyone with a spouse or children who are foreign citizens is "a national issue."

He said it reflects lingering immigration problems in Myanmar due to the nation's location between heavily populated countries.

Suu Kyi's two sons are British. Her late husband was also a British citizen.

When asked whether he might meet one on one with Suu Kyi, Hlaing called such a discussion with the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader "difficult," saying her political intentions may not be the same as his. But he said he would not rule out the possibility of a meeting should one prove necessary.

Hlaing spoke with VOA Burmese Service Chief Than Lwin Htun in the capital, Naypyitaw.

Unprecedented talks

The powerful armed forces chief reportedly held discussions with Suu Kyi for the first time late last month during unprecedented talks among 14 of Myanmar's political rivals and military leaders. The talks led to commitments to discuss political reforms and peace talks.

But many opposition figures criticized the meeting as avoiding meaningful dialogue.

Suu Kyi later demanded four-party talks with President Thein Sein, Hlaing and the speaker of the House.

But Thein Sein appeared to dismiss the idea in an interview with VOA Thursday at the presidential residence.

"Discussion is the right way [to find a political solution], but only among the four of us is not inclusive enough," he said.

Thein Sein, a retired army general, has been president of Myanmar since 2011, following a four-year stint as prime minister. Before that, Myanmar had been under absolute military control from 1962 until 2010.

Thein Sein told VOA he has not decided whether to run for a second term in presidential elections scheduled for 2015.

No constitutional change

Meanwhile, Suu Kyi's NLD party wants to change the constitutional ban preventing her from becoming president. But Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann said Tuesday that the military-drafted constitution cannot be changed before elections next November. He did not elaborate.

In addition to the political issues swirling in Myanmar, the still-fractured nation is also plagued by ethnic conflicts. Rebel groups have been fighting the central government for decades, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of people.
Most of the groups have signed temporary cease-fires in recent years, but peace deals are still being discussed.

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