x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Suu Kyi's stand

In Myanmar, refusing to safeguard the constitution is, for once, the right decision.

Does one word matter so much? Myanmar has suffered 50 years of military rule, a suffocated economy and the longest-running civil conflicts on Earth. The country's halting steps towards reform are not much more than one year old.

At this delicate stage, Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party are directly challenging the military-backed government - over one word? Indeed, they are.

Recently elected to parliament, Ms Suu Kyi and her supporters are refusing to take the oath of office because it would require them to swear to "safeguard" the constitution. But the constitution guarantees the army's role in government in perpetuity. The NLD wants to rewrite the charter in the future, and hence will pledge only to "respect" the present one.

It's a matter of principle, to be sure. The stand-off may still provoke a major confrontation, although the reforms have quite probably crossed the Rubicon. The generals have allowed too much freedom to be able to turn back without a revolution.

There are more pressing issues - economic development and ending the civil conflicts in ethnic areas. But Ms Suu Kyi is right: the new Myanmar should be a country based on principles. And where better to start than the oath of office?