Aung San Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi voicing impossible dream to be president put leaders on spot

Opposition leader barred from being president, but she is making the government feel the heat

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 June, 2013, 3:19am

Most politicians coyly deny they want to lead their country until the last possible minute, but Myanmar's opposition leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, dispensed with the usual pleasantries and announced unequivocally her desire to be president two years before the 2015 poll.

There is only one problem: it will be all but impossible for her to run in the 2015 election. And she knows it.

Although she has expressed interest before, the timing and venue, a packed meeting of the World Economic Forum in Naypyidaw, Myanmar's capital, was designed for impact.

"I want to run for president and I'm quite frank about it," she told a panel. "If I pretended that I didn't want to be president, I wouldn't be honest and I would rather be honest with my people than otherwise."

When the then-military dictatorship decided a few years ago to introduce limited democratic reforms and open up Myanmar, also known as Burma, to the West, analysts said, it wrote rules to ensure the popular Suu Kyi would not threaten its power.

"It's almost impossible for her to be president," said Tint Swe, a former member of parliament with Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party and chairman of the civic group Burma Centre Delhi. "The regime in power before 2008 did this intentionally, making it almost impossible to amend the constitution."

Myanmar's constitution states that no Burmese citizen with foreign relatives can become president or vice-president. Suu Kyi's late husband was British and her two sons hold British passports.

Beyond that are various procedural barriers.

Knowing the procedural impediments, Suu Kyi may have made Thursday's high-profile statement before diplomats, foreign bankers, company heads and UN officials to embarrass and otherwise pressure the government as it hosted the international community, some said.