Myanmar ruling party rejects Suu Kyi demand to change oath

Mon Apr 23, 2012 6:40am EDT
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By Stuart Grudgings

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (Reuters) - Myanmar's ruling, army-backed party on Monday rejected demands of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to change parliament's oath of office, the first clear sign of friction since the democracy leader's party swept historic by-elections.

The dispute marred Monday's opening of parliament, as Suu Kyi and other members of her party refused to take their seats, denting an image of transformation on the day the European Union agreed to suspend most sanctions against Myanmar for a year, EU diplomats said.

The expected EU decision on sanctions is a boon for Myanmar's long-stagnant economy and could prompt the United States and Canada to follow suit and pave the way for development loans and a flood of foreign investment in a trove of natural resources such as oil, gas, timber and gemstones.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy's (NLD) wants to replace the words "safeguard the constitution" with "respect the constitution" in the oath sworn by new members of parliament.

Suu Kyi promised supporters that, if elected, she would seek to revise the 2008 army-drafted constitution that gives the military wide powers, including the ability to appoint key cabinet members, take control of the country in a state of emergency and occupy a quarter of seats in parliament.

But the secretary general of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Htay Oo, said his party would not introduce any proposal to change the oath.

"The wording would have no impact on the development of the country," he told Reuters.

President Thein Sein, a reformist former general, told reporters in Japan that he also had no plans to change the wording of the oath, Kyodo news agency reported.   Continued...

A view of the third session of Upper House parliament meeting in Naypyitaw April 23, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun