Myanmar student detained over protest against army charter veto

Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president because of a constitutional provision excluding those with foreign children from the top office.
Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president because of a constitutional provision excluding those with foreign children from the top office.PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar police said on Wednesday (Dec 16) they had arrested a student activist accused of stirring unrest at a June protest calling for an end to military MPs holding a quarter of parliament's seats.

The arrest came despite a landslide win for Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party in landmark November elections that many hope will herald a new era of freedom in a nation that languished for years under junta rule.

Nan Lynn, 20, was picked up in downtown Yangon on Tuesday after months on the run over his role in the June 30 rally in the city, Myanmar's commercial hub.

"They demonstrated to change the constitution and called for the 25 per cent military MPs to leave the parliament. We had an order to arrest them. It says they were trying to stir up violence," said Thein Aye, head of police in Yangon's Babal Dan township, where the protests began.

Authorities in July also arrested Zayar Lwin, 25, and Paing Ye Thu, 24, over the rally, according to a spokesman of the national University Students' Union. All three are studying in universities in Yangon.

Police said they are still searching for two more activists over the protest, which saw a few hundred passers-by join a handful of student demonstrators.

They were calling for an end to the Myanmar army's effective veto on constitutional change.

Scuffles broke out at one point as the angry crowd squared up to police carrying batons and shields.

Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president because of a constitutional provision excluding those with foreign children from the top office. Her sons are British.

The Myanmar army's 25 per cent parliamentary block stands in the way of altering this and other major clauses because charter change requires more than a three quarter majority.

This constitutional deadlock looks set to overshadow a new parliament dominated by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, which is due to begin sitting in February.

Parliament will select a president as one of its first tasks and while Suu Kyi is banned from the role, the veteran activist has indicated she will lead from "above" the head of state.

The plan, which has not been fully explained, throws the gauntlet down to a military that kept her under house arrest for 15 years before handing power to a quasi-civilian government five years ago.

Reforms since then have seen hundreds of political prisoners released and the country's once cloistered economy creak open for foreign investment.

But recent months have seen the jailing of activists and journalists, which has fuelled fears of backsliding.

In March authorities launched a violent crackdown on a student-led education protest in the town of Letpadan, some two hours north of Yangon.

Scores of young activists remain in prison following that unrest.