In a speech to the nation on 2 January, President Thein Sein praised the new political culture in Burma where “the freedom [exists] to openly discuss and debate politics.”
But he reserved much of his speech to opine about proposals for constitutional reform, saying, “I believe that a healthy Constitution must be amended from time to time to address the national, economic, and social needs of our society,” according to a transcript in the state-run New Light of Myanmar.
Thein Sein identified three main areas which he said needed to be taken into consideration when amending the current constitution, which was drafted in 2008 under the austere authority of the then ruling junta.
In the first and second points, Thein Sein made reference to national reconciliation and the peace process, noting that all parties need to be involved for greater democratic attitudes and values to take root.
Thirdly, regarding the political leadership of the country, he said, “I would not want restrictions being imposed on the right of any citizen to become the leader of the country.
“At same time, we will need to have all necessary measures in place in order to defend our national interests and sovereignty.”
It was a clear reference to Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, who is denied the opportunity to run for the presidency under a clause – Article 59 (f) – that restricts anyone who has a spouse or children with foreign citizenship.
“We will undertake the amending of the Constitution to facilitate national reconciliation, the foundation of the national peace process, through consensus based on mutual understanding, and listening to each other’s demands,” said the Burmese president.
Thein Sein made reference to the NLD, noting that it had conducted surveys across the country relating to constitutional reform, and he noted that the military has also submitted its proposals and comments to the parliamentary Committee to Study and Amend the Constitution.
Reports have also circulated in international media in recent days that the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) will support Suu Kyi’s bid to have the restriction lifted on her ability to seek the presidency in 2015.
However, DVB cannot verify that the USDP has included such a suggestion in its list of recommendations to the Committee with various party representatives giving different accounts to the media.