Suu Kyi calls for 'clean politics' in birthday message

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for "clean politics" in a video message marking her 70th birthday on Friday, saying looming elections would be crucial in deciding the country's future.

Suu Kyi and her party are expected to make sweeping gains at the polls slated for October or November in what is seen as one of the greatest tests yet of the former military-ruled nation's transition towards democracy.

The Nobel laureate, who entered parliament in 2012 after landmark by-elections following a decades-long democracy struggle, said this year was a "very important time" for Myanmar, which was ruled by the army for nearly half a century.

"How this election is held, what the results are and what the situation in the country is after the election, will not just have an impact this year, or next year, but for many years to come," she said in a recorded message posted on Facebook.

Suu Kyi, who is currently barred from becoming president by a junta-era constitution, also called for "clean politics", free from trickery and coercion.

"Only if we have clean politics can our country develop in peace," she added.

The opposition leader has declined to completely rule out a boycott of this year's poll as she campaigns to change the constitution.

The charter excludes anyone from top political office who has foreign children and her two sons are British.

Analysts say she is unlikely to succeed in changing the charter in time, as she faces strong opposition from military MPs who hold a quarter of parliamentary seats.

But her supporters say her central role in the country's political future is not in doubt.

"She has been very important for the last 20 years and will remain just as important in future years for our party and our country," said nformation officer Nay Soe Aung from her National League for Democracy (NLD) party's youth wing.

Supporters gave donations to lines of nuns in salmon-coloured robes at the party headquarters in Yangon on Friday, while Suu Kyi was presented with several birthday cakes in a ceremony in the capital Naypyidaw, where she is serving as an MP.

Further celebrations are expected over the weekend by her party, which is holding its annual senior level conference on Saturday and Sunday in Yangon.

Myanmar began emerging from military rule in 2011 following an election marred by widespread accusations of cheating and the absence of the NLD.

Suu Kyi was freed from years of house arrest days after the 2010 polls and has since led her party into parliament.

But she has warned that reforms under the quasi-civilian government have stalled.