The Irrawaddy News Magazine [Covering Burma and Southeast Asia]

Adviser Denies Hinting Govt Role for Suu Kyi
Monday, January 9, 2012

A Burmese presidential adviser has denied that he said that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be appointed to the government if she wins a parliamentary seat in the coming by-elections.

On Sunday, media reports quoted presidential adviser Dr. Nay Zin Latt as saying that Suu Kyi could possibly be appointed to the government if she won a seat in the by-elections scheduled for April 1.

But Nay Zin Latt denied having made such a comment, and said that he only mentioned the possibility of Suu Kyi being elected as “chair” of a parliamentary committee if she was elected an MP.

“I did not say that she would get a government position after winning the elections. I only said that the majority in parliament, if they wish, can choose her to chair a parliamentary position,” he said in an interview with The Irrawaddy on Monday.

“In fact, the president can appoint anyone to the government—whether he or she is an MP or not,” he added, referring to a constitutional statement granting the country's president the power to appoint Cabinet members who are not necessarily required to be elected officials.

However, there is every possibility of Suu Kyi being offered a government position given the apparently comfortable relationship built between Suu Kyi and ex-general President Thein Sein after their meeting in August last year.

Since that meeting in Naypyidaw, Suu Kyi has made a string of positive statements about Thein Sein's personality, and has assured a skeptical public that he nurtures a genuine desire for reform. It was this desire that convinced her to contest a parliamentary seat in the by-elections.

Last Wednesday, the Nobel Laureate reiterated her confidence in Thein Sein even after public criticism mounted against him over a government amnesty that saw the release of just over 30 political prisoners in the country. She also appealed to frustrated opposition activists to “keep a cool head” and be hopeful of a further release of political prisoners, while expressing concerns about how far the army would be willing to support democratic reforms.

But the activists' impatience over continued the detention of their political comrades became public on Sunday when they took to the streets and visited the families of 15 political prisoners in Rangoon townships.

“We aim to pressure the government into releasing all remaining political prisoners. We are going to have this campaign every Sunday and visit family members of jailed political colleagues,” said Myat Thu, one of the organizers of the campaign.

Myat Thu is himself a former political prisoner who has been arrested twice for political activities. Speaking with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Rangoon last week, he said that the Burmese army continues to play a dominant role in the country's politics and is possibly blocking the release of political prisoners.

“We are going to have a mass prayer in the near future as part of this Sunday campaign,” he said. “But this is not an act against what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is doing. This is just to add pressure on the government to release political prisoners, instead of dumping wishful thinking on us.”

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