04/19/2016, 17.23
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Aung San Suu Kyi calls for a federal democratic union to achieve peace with Myanmar’s ethnic groups

In a speech to the nation on Myanmar’s New Year, the NLD leader proposes changes to the Constitution. To do so, she needs military support, which is not yet forthcoming.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), delivered a televised nation-wide address on Myanmar’s New Year.

In her speech, she called for changes to the 2008 constitution, imposed by the country’s then ruling military junta, to include all of Myanmar’s ethnic groups.

“The constitution needs to be one that will give birth to a genuine, federal democratic union,” she said.

“Our policies and principles are to ensure national reconciliation, internal peace, the rule of law, amendments to the constitution and keeping the democratic system dynamic and well ingrained”.

“Through peace conferences, we’ll continue to be able to build up a genuine, federal democratic union aspired to by all our countrymen”.

In a country of about 135 ethnic groups, peaceful coexistence has always been a struggle, especially with the central government, which is dominated by ethnic Burmese.

In the past, the ruling military junta used an iron fist against the groups least amenable to central control, like ethnic Kachin, who live along the border with China in the north, and more recently, ethnic Kokang in Shan state.

To prevent an escalation, the military launched peace talks in October 2015, which led to a cease-fire with eight national armed ethnic minority groups.

However, the agreement did not bring lasting peace and the army continues to fight in various regions.

For Myanmar’s new NLD-led democratic government, which took power on 1 April, peace at home is the priority.

According to many analysts, without security, the economy cannot attract foreign investment needed for growth and development.

Still, constitutional changes require the support of three quarters plus one vote in parliament where the military control one quarter of all seats, plus the Interior, Defence, and Border ministries. Hence, any amendment depends on military support.

Ms Suu Kyi, who is also foreign minister and minister of the President’s Office, tried unsuccessfully to get the military to change the constitution so that she could run for president.

Faced with a refusal, she named one of her allies, Htin Kyaw, as her choice for president, and he was duly elected by parliament. However, since the NLD took office, relations with the military have cooled.

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