US urges Myanmar to change constitution barring Aung San Suu Kyi from presidency

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's path to power is blocked by the 2008 constitution that bars anyone with foreign children or a foreign husband from the presidency.
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's path to power is blocked by the 2008 constitution that bars anyone with foreign children or a foreign husband from the presidency.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON - The White House on Thursday (Nov 12) said constitutional changes were still necessary in Myanmar to further democracy, after elections seen as a leap toward full civilian rule.

After President Barack Obama congratulated Myanmar's longtime pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the success of a historic vote that looks set to put her party in power, the White House spelled out more steps it believes are necessary.

"We have consistently said over the course of the last several years that a full transition to democratic, civilian rule...would require a process of constitutional reform," said senior Obama foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes.

"Even with this election, 25 per cent of the seats in the parliament are reserved for the military," said Mr Rhodes.

"And then, of course, there are the amendment procedures that prohibit Aung San Suu Kyi from assuming the presidency.

"Going forward, this is a question for the leaders and people of Burma (Myanmar) to determine," he added.

Ms Suu Kyi's path to power is blocked by the 2008 constitution that bars anyone with foreign children or a foreign husband from the presidency. Her sons are British, as was her late husband. The measure is widely thought to have been brought in by Myanmar's military strongmen to prevent Ms Suu Kyi becoming president.

After a process of parliament being seated and a president being appointed, Mr Rhodes said "at some point, it will be up to that new parliament and to those leaders to make determinations about the reform and the constitution.

"I think Aung San Suu Kyi is in a very strong position as the leader of the NLD (National League for Democracy) to be a leading voice about the future direction of the country," he said.