Aung San Suu Kyi

Thein Sein could accept Suu Kyi as Myanmar's president

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 October, 2012, 4:42am

Myanmese leader Thein Sein said he would accept democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi as president if elected, but could not alone amend the rules that bar her from power.

The former general paid rare tribute to the Nobel laureate during a landmark tour of the United States, where he insisted his country would continue its strides towards democracy after decades of army rule.

Thein Sein, whose meeting with Suu Kyi in New York was the latest sign of warm relations between the nation's leader and its most famous former political prisoner, told the BBC there were "no problems" between them.

"If the people accept her, I will have to accept her. As I said before, we are now working together," he said, according to translated excerpts of an interview with the British broadcaster aired on Saturday.

But he said he could not alone remove the barriers impeding Suu Kyi's route to the residency, as the country heads towards crucial 2015 elections.

Myanmar's constitution prohibits those with close foreign relatives from holding high office. Suu Kyi, who married a British academic, has two sons living in the West.

Diplomats and analysts have been watching the emerging relationship between Thein Sein and Suu Kyi. They worry that lingering friction and suspicions could derail still fragile political, social and economic reforms. But Thein Sein's remarks about Suu Kyi suggest a new confidence in his civilian role.

Myanmar's once omnipotent military still holds a key bloc of seats in the country's fledgling parliament that gives it a potential veto over any constitution change.

Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy have vowed to push for constitutional changes to limit the generals' long-term political role.