US hopes for Myanmar constitution in time for vote

WASHINGTON: The United States voiced hope Thursday that Myanmar will reform its constitution in time for elections in 2015 after opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi appealed for an overhaul.

A committee in the fast-reforming country earlier known as Burma is drafting amendments to the constitution, which effectively blocks Suu Kyi from seeking the presidency.

“We hope constitutional reform will occur in time to ensure that Burma’s next elections in 2015 will be fully free and fair and provide the Burmese people the ability to freely choose their country’s leadership,” said Jason Rebholz, a State Department spokesman.

“To reach its full potential, we believe Burma will need a legal infrastructure consistent with the international norms of a modern democratic state, including respect for the rights of minorities, civilian control of the military and the right of citizens to freely elect the leaders of their choice,” he said.

Suu Kyi, marking the founding of her National League for Democracy last week, appealed for changes to the constitution, saying that without changes “we cannot say that the country is going on the democracy track.”

Suu Kyi’s party won elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power, with the military regime keeping her under house arrest for most of the following two decades.

The Nobel laureate was freed in 2010 and President Thein Sein, a former general who took office the following year, has quickly instituted democratic reforms that have led the United States to end most economic sanctions.

The 2015 election will provide a definitive test on whether the military is willing potentially to give up power.

The constitution, approved in a referendum held during a massive 2008 cyclone, excludes from the presidency anyone whose spouses or children are foreign citizens. Suu Kyi’s two sons hold British nationality through their father, the late scholar Michael Aris.