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Suu Kyi urges world to pressure Myanmar leaders on reform

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday urged European Union and world leaders to pile pressure on her country's government to complete its reform process.

Speaking to a small group of journalists, the Nobel peace laureate said the country's democratic future, as well as an end to its ethnic conflicts, depended on quick and sweeping amendments to its existing constitution.

"Reform has gone as far as it can without changes to the constitution," she said.

"Unless this constitution is amended we have to take it that the present administration has no interest in reforming further.

"The European Union must come out unambiguously on the need to change the constitution," she said.

Crafted under the former military regime, the current Myanmar constitution notably would block Suu Kyi from becoming president after 2015 elections as it excludes anyone whose spouses or children are foreign nationals.

Her two sons are British nationals through their father, the late scholar Michael Aris.

The constitution also requires the head of state to have military experience -- which in Myanmar means the exclusion of women from holding the post, she said.

Myanmar will hold parliamentary polls in 2015, with the new parliament then choosing a president and Suu Kyi has said she wants to run for the presidency.

Suu Kyi, whose party is canvasing nationwide in favour of a constitutional rewrite because "it is not democratic", said the country was awaiting the results of a parliamentary enquiry on the issue at the end of the year.

She said too that without changes to the constitution there could be no end to the country's deadly ethnic clashes.

But the government had failed to publicly commit to the need for a rewrite, she said.

"So far they have said it was up to the legislature," where the military holds 25 percent of the seats and where civilians cannot make up the 75 percent required for constitutional change because seats have not been filled, she said.

"This is a little disingenuous," she said. "This is not good enough."

Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest under military rule in Myanmar, before she was freed after controversial elections in 2010.

The democracy icon is now an opposition lawmaker as part of sweeping reforms under a new quasi-civilian regime that took office in 2011.

President Thein Sein, who took power in March 2011, has earned international plaudits and the removal of most western sanctions for reforms that include freeing hundreds of political prisoners detained under the former junta.

But the military and its political allies remain in control of parliament while religious violence and the continued arrests of activists have tempered optimism about the political reforms.

US Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this month warned that Myanmar's reforms remained "incomplete".

Urging world leaders to press the government to take a stand on the question, Suu Kyi said "the opinion of the international community matters a lot to the government because it wants aid and investment."

She lunched with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg before heading to Strasbourg on Tuesday to pick up the EU's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize, which she won 23 years ago at the height of the Myanmar military crackdown.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131021/suu-kyi-urges-world-pressure-myanmar-leaders-reform-0