Thursday 22 August 2019

Suu Kyi aims to run Burma in 'role above president'

Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: AP
Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: AP

Philip Sherwell in Rangoon

A confident Aung San Suu Kyi has declared that she will run Burma in a role "above the president" if her party wins this Sunday's landmark elections, even though the constitution bars her from the top job.

The Burmese opposition leader boldly laid out her intention to overcome the constitutional hurdle to power in a press conference held on the lawn of the lakeside Rangoon home where she spent 15 years under house arrest.

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) is the favourite to win the parliamentary elections, but she cannot be nominated for president because of a bar on candidates for that office who have foreign family.

The Nobel laureate, whose late husband was British, as are their two sons, threw down the gauntlet to the Burmese generals who once jailed her and then insisted on the clause to block her leadership ambitions.

"I will run the government and we will have a president who will work in accordance with the policies of the NLD," she said with her usual authoritative air. "I will be above the president. It's a very simple message."

She brushed away a question about whether her plan would violate the law. "The constitution says nothing about somebody being above the president," she said. "I have already made plans."

Ms Suu Kyi said that campaigning for the elections was "less than totally free and fair", with repeated violations of electoral law. And she expressed fear about the "extent to which the authorities are prepared to go to win the election".

Nonetheless, Sunday's vote - the first in the country since the end of five decades of military dictatorship - is the latest stage in a remarkable and turbulent journey for both Ms Suu Kyi and her country.

She was just two when her father, the hero of the Burmese independence struggle against British colonial rule, was assassinated. Burma was plunged first into violent ethnic conflicts and then cut itself from the world after the 1962 military coup.

Ms Suu Kyi spent much of her adult life in Oxford, where she studied, and then married a British academic and raised two children. But in 1988, she left her family behind to care for her sick mother in Rangoon.

She planned to return a few weeks later but never came back as she emerged as the figurehead of a student uprising against the military dictatorship.

The generals brutally crushed the nationwide protests, put Ms Suu Kyi under house arrest in 1989 - from which she would not be fully released until 2011 - and ignored the landslide win by the NLD in the 1990 elections. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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