Aung San Suu Kyi believes the military has a “crucial role” to play in developing Burma and amending the flawed 2008 constitution, according to her leaked, partially censored campaign speech set to be broadcast on state-run channels today.
“Military forces in every country, including the one in Burma, stand as the main force to defend their countries,” said Suu Kyi. “I believe, by reflecting on our country’s political experiences and events we’ve experienced, the Tatmadaw plays an essential role in working to develop the country.”
The authorities censored a paragraph of Suu Kyi’s speech, which had to be screened in advance, citing legislation that prohibits statements harming the image of the military. Her praise for the military stands in contrast to the rest of her speech, where she pressed for the rule of law and further democratic reform.
Suu Kyi laid out a laundry list of initiatives that her party would pursue if elected, including the resolution of ethnic conflicts. The National League for Democracy (NLD) candidate called for a nation-wide ceasefire and political dialogue with a view to establishing “a genuine union based on equality, self-determination and self-autonomy” based on the principles of the Panglong Agreement.
Suu Kyi’s father, revolutionary hero Aung San, initiated the Panglong Agreement in 1947, which was instrumental to settling ethnic disputes in the post-colonial union. However, the agreement was not honoured after the 1962 military coup and the country has been suffering from civil war ever since.
“We can only work on the development of our country when we stop the civil war immediately and bring peace,” said Suu Kyi.
She also stressed the creation of an independent judiciary that would stand parallel and separate from the country’s executive and legislative branches, which would be monitored by a free media. With regards to education, Suu Kyi said local ethnic languages should be included in school curriculums in remote ethnic areas where the Burmese language is not widely spoken.
“It is necessary for all members of the parliament including the united Tatmadaw force to negotiate with each other and look at the country’s interests, while renouncing sectarianism and favouritism,” said the NLD leader.
After almost two decades of incarceration, Suu Kyi is running as a candidate in Rangoon Division’s Kawhmu township, while the NLD is competing in all 48 constituencies that have vacant seats in the upcoming 1 April by-elections.