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May 29, 2017

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Suu Kyi faces pushback from the army

Analysts say her tactics on charter change may backfire

Across Myanmar, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is stepping up her campaign to change the Constitution by staging street rallies in crowded cities and dusty villages that draw thousand-strong crowds.

She has also begun to broaden her message by challenging the role of the powerful military, which has the clout to veto any charter changes.

At a rally in Lewe town, Naypyidaw, on Sunday, Suu Kyi told a huge crowd: "We are not attacking the military, whose duty is to protect the country and people. When the military was established, it regarded the people as parents.

"I am just urging the military not to take the role it shouldn't take because I want it to be loved by the people."

The twin messages of Suu Kyi's public campaign are closely related.

Her real goal is to change Article 59F of the charter, which bars her from the presidency because of her marriage to a British academic and her two sons' British citizenship.

But to do that, she has to first succeed in amending Article 436, which states that the support of more than 75 percent of lawmakers is needed for any charter change.

This effectively gives the military, which holds 25 percent of seats in the national Parliament, a veto on any constitutional amendments.

But the Nobel laureate's move to mobilise the public on this issue is facing a growing pushback from the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar army is officially known.

The Union Election Commission (UEC), chaired by retired army general Tin Aye, recently reminded Suu Kyi that she swore an oath to the Constitution and so she should not criticise it.

In a letter on May 22, the commission told Suu Kyi that she had made illegal and unconstitutional comments in saying the military should not be afraid of constitutional change in support of democratic reform.

It also warned that her comments could jeopardise the re-registration of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), ahead of by-elections later this year and a general election at the end of next year.

The NLD responded tersely by saying that the UEC's caution was inappropriate, and challenged its authority to decide on constitutional matters.

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