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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi to Assume Another New Role

Leader of the National League for Democracy Party (NLD) and Burma's new Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, right, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, joint press conference, Naypyitaw, April 5, 2016.

Myanmar's parliament is creating a new role for the head of the newly elected ruling party, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Lawmakers voted Tuesday to establish the position of State Counselor, drawing opposition from military representatives in parliament. The move to make Suu Kyi the country's de facto top leader, initiated last week, was the new parliament's first legislative act.

Suu Kyi, who stated during the election campaign that she would hold a position “above the president,” is also Foreign Minister and Minister of the President's Office. Because her children are foreign nationals, Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from being president of Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.

The military representatives, who hold 25 percent of the seats under the constitution drafted by the former military government, say the new position is unconstitutional. But the legislation passed easily because of the parliament majority Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, holds after last November’s election.

The bill must now be signed into law by President Htin Kyaw, a close Suu Kyi ally.

Also Tuesday, Suu Kyi met with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who congratulated the country on its newly established civilian government and promised China would pursue projects that would benefit both countries.

China, an ally of the former military government and the country's largest foreign investor, has been criticized for pursuing allegedly exploitative and environmentally dangerous projects, such as a mega-dam in the northern region, a gas pipeline through the state of Rakhine, and multiple mineral mines.

In a news conference following this meeting, neither foreign minister indicated whether these controversial topics were discussed, allowing only that they had discussed issues to enhance bilateral economic and trade relations.

Produced in collaboration with VOA's Burmese Service.