Suu Kyi calls for speedy change to Myanmar constitution

PRAGUE Tue Sep 17, 2013 5:57pm EDT

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi smiles after her meeting with former Polish president Lech Walesa (not pictured) in Myslewicki Palace in Warsaw September 12, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi smiles after her meeting with former Polish president Lech Walesa (not pictured) in Myslewicki Palace in Warsaw September 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kacper Pempel

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PRAGUE (Reuters) - Myanmar needs to change its constitution as fast as possible to put the country firmly on the path to democracy, Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of the country's democratic opposition Aung San Suu Kyi said on Tuesday.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in last year's parliamentary by-elections, giving her a seat in parliament.

But the 68-year old faces a tough challenge to have the constitution changed to push on with reforms and to allow her to run for presidency in 2015.

"We need to amend the present constitution that we may truly become a democratic country. This constitution is anti-democratic," Suu Kyi told reporters after attending a conference in Prague.

Myanmar has suffered from ethnic divisions, including between the majority Buddhist population and the Muslim Rohingya minority in the country's west. At least 237 people have been killed in violence between the two groups over the past year and about 150,000 people have been left homeless.

"The ethnic problem will not be solved by this present constitution which does not meet the aspirations of the ethnic nationalities. The democracy problem will not be solved by this constitution," Suu Kyi said.

The current constitution bars Suu Kyi from running for presidency in 2015 because it bans anyone married to a foreigner or who has children who are foreign citizens. Suu Kyi and her husband, the late British academic Michael Aris, had two children who are British.

Changing the constitution is a difficult process. It requires more than 75 percent support in parliament, where 25 percent of seats are held by appointees of the military, which is a problem in itself, Suu Kyi said.

If Suu Kyi were to eventually win power, she would not only need to secure a constitutional change but also fend off two former generals who covet the top spot. The first is Shwe Mann, the influential speaker of Myanmar's lower house.

The other is the popular incumbent Thein Sein, whose quasi-civilian government took power in March 2011 after nearly half a century of military rule and launched a series of political and economic reforms. Thein Sein might seek a second term despite health concerns.

(Reporting by Robert Muller, writing by Jan Lopatka; editing by David Evans)

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