Millions back Suu Kyi call for Myanmar charter change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi lays a basket of flowers at the tomb of her late father Gen. Aung San during a ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of his 1947 assassination, at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon, Myanmar, Saturday, July 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

By Kelly MacNamara ,AFP

YANGON — Myanmar’s opposition has gathered millions of signatures in support of changes to a constitution that bars its leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president, in a show of political strength ahead of elections next year. Suu Kyi has travelled the country drawing crowds of thousands with speeches urging the military to accept a reduced political role, as her party of democracy veterans touts its moral authority in the former army-run nation. The petition, which was launched in May, had gathered around three million signatures by early July. “In a democratic country the people’s will is important. That is why this is important,” Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, told AFP. The campaign, which ends Saturday, is focused on altering a provision that currently ensures the military has a veto on any amendment to the junta-era charter. To alter the constitution there needs to be support from a majority of over 75 percent of parliament.

Unelected soldiers, who make up a quarter of the legislature, therefore have the last say on changes to the charter.

Nyan Win said he expects the clause to be altered during the current sitting of parliament, which ends later this month, and that this would enable further changes. “It is the main door. If it opens, you’ll see everything,” he said. While the campaign has generated headlines, experts say it is unclear what effect it will have.

A member of the constitution amendment committee, which like parliament is dominated by the military and ruling army-backed party, said the petition would make no difference to its deliberations.

He said the 31-member group will release its first recommendations in the coming days, but that these are only based on suggestions received before a December deadline.

“They should have done this earlier,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity because members have been directed not to reveal their deliberations.