Suu Kyi to be Myanmar foreign minister

The Nobel laureate has already vowed to rule above the man picked as president.

Wednesday March 23 2016

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi (right) delivers a speech from the balcony of the NLD headquarters in Yangon on November 9, 2015. Aung San Suu Kyi will be foreign minister in Myanmar’s first civilian government for decades, her party said Tuesday, giving the democracy champion a formal post despite being blocked from the presidency. PHOTO | YE AUNG THU |

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi (right) delivers a speech from the balcony of the NLD headquarters in Yangon on November 9, 2015. Aung San Suu Kyi will be foreign minister in Myanmar’s first civilian government for decades, her party said Tuesday, giving the democracy champion a formal post despite being blocked from the presidency. PHOTO | YE AUNG THU | AFP

By AFP
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NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar, Tuesday

Aung San Suu Kyi will be foreign minister in Myanmar’s first civilian government for decades, her party said Tuesday, giving the democracy champion a formal post despite being blocked from the presidency.

The Nobel laureate has already vowed to rule above the man picked as president, Htin Kyaw, in the government which comes to power next week in the former army-ruled nation.

Suu Kyi was the sole woman and one of only six members of her National League for Democracy party in a cabinet list read out to lawmakers early Tuesday by the parliament speaker Mann Win Khaing Than, who did not specify which position she or others would hold.

But NLD spokesman Zaw Myint Maung later confirmed she would lead the foreign ministry and hinted that she would also hold other roles, without specifying which ones.

“She will be the foreign minister, mainly. If she wants to share the duties she has in other ministries with qualified people, she can assign them,” he told reporters.

The NLD only named 15 ministers for 18 posts chosen by the civilian government, sparking speculation that Suu Kyi would take on four portfolios - widely believed to be foreign affairs, education, energy and the president’s office.

Oxford-educated Suu Kyi, 70, is the daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero and towered over the country’s democracy movement as it waged a spirited and non-violent struggle against almost half a century of military rule.

But she is blocked from the presidency by the junta-drafted constitution because her two sons are British, as was her late husband.

POLITICAL TRANSFORMATION

Myanmar has undergone a stunning political transformation in recent years, blossoming from isolation under the junta to become an increasingly vibrant nation.

Its growing political openness was crowned by a historic November election that saw the NLD storm to victory.

But the country still faces huge challenges, including the continued might of an army that for years viewed Suu Kyi and her party with deep suspicion.

The NLD has operated under a veil of secrecy since the polls, only revealing its choice of president days before his election by parliament last week.

Suu Kyi has held several rounds of talks with army chief Min Aung Hlaing since the elections, but was unable to remove the constitutional barrier to her presidency.

The foreign ministry role gives her international clout and a seat at the influential military-dominated Security Council.

“She wants to be at the heart of government. She wants to do it properly and formally and - this is important to her - legally,” Trevor Wilson, an academic at the Australian National University and former ambassador to Myanmar, told AFP.

Under Myanmar’s complex political rules, the cabinet role means she will have to forgo her seat in parliament, although her party insisted she would maintain her chairmanship of the NLD.

Htin Kyaw is Suu Kyi’s long-term confidante and ally and seen as utterly loyal. Last week he said his rise to the leadership was “Suu Kyi’s victory”.