Myanmar leader Thein Sein has said in an interview he would accept democracy
champion Aung San Suu Kyi as president if elected, but added he could not alone
amend rules that bar her from power.
Former general Thein Sein has paid rare tributes to Myanmar’s Nobel laureate during
a landmark tour of the United States where he has burnished his reformist credentials
by insisting his country will continue its strides towards democracy after decades
of army rule.

The Myanmar leader, whose meeting with Suu Kyi in New York marked the latest
sign of warm relations between the nation’s leader and its most famous former
political prisoner, told the BBC there were “no problems” between them.

“If the people accept her, I will have to accept her. As I said before, we are now working
together,” he said, according to translated excerpts of an interview with the British
broadcaster aired Saturday.

But he insisted he could not act alone to remove the barriers impeding the democracy
champion’s route to the presidency, as the country heads towards crucial 2015 elections.

Myanmar’s constitution currently prohibits those with close foreign relatives from
holding high office and Suu Kyi, who married a British academic, has two sons living
in the West.

“I alone cannot change the constitution. This depends on the wish of the people and
also the wishes of the members of parliament,” he said.

Thein Sein also underscored the continuing importance of the military. Soldiers have
a quarter of the seats in Myanmar’s parliament and effectively have a veto on
constitutional amendment, which requires a more than 75 percent majority.

“The constitution clearly defines the responsibility of the military and every sector
of the parliament. We cannot exclude the army from politics,” he said.

Thein Sein has won international plaudits — and the suspension or lifting of most
Western sanctions — for the fast pace of change in Myanmar since he took the helm
of a quasi-civilian regime last year.

A spokesman for Suu Kyi’s party said the organisation “greatly welcome what he said”
and stressed that the NLD also wants the president to have legitimacy under the

“If it’s the president’s real attitude, we have to amend some aspects of the constitution,”
Ohn Kyaing told AFP.

“We think he will accept if we want to make amendments.”

He added that former defence minister Lieutenant General Hla Min had indicated
recently that the military was willing to change when it felt the time was right.

Thein Sein, who was a senior figure in the previous junta, has met Suu Kyi on several
occasions amid efforts to steer the long-isolated country towards democracy and
economic prosperity.