x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Suu Kyi declares love for Myanmar army

Myanmar's opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi says she remains fond of her country's army despite claims that it has recruited child soldiers and used rape as a weapon.

LONDON // Myanmar's opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi remains fond of her country's army despite claims that it has recruited child soldiers and used rape as a weapon, she said in an interview broadcast yesterday.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was herself held under house arrest by the military for most of the past two decades, told the BBC radio show Desert Island Discs she hoped the army could redeem itself for terrible things it had done.

She confirmed that she wanted to become Myanmar's president after elections in 2015 - although she would not be eligible for the post without constitutional reforms that need military backing.

"It's genuine, I'm fond of the army," the 67-year-old said on the show, which was recorded last month at her home in Myanmar's capital, Naypyidaw.

"People don't like me for saying that. There are many who have criticised me for being what they call a poster girl for the army ... but the truth is I am very fond of the army, because I always thought of it as my father's army."

Ms Suu Kyi's father Aung San, considered the father of modern Myanmar, created the army and led the struggle against British colonial rule.

"I was taught that my father was the father of the army, and that all soldiers were his sons - and therefore they were part of my family," she said.

"It's terrible what they've done and I don't like what they've done at all. But if you love somebody, I think you love her or him in spite of and not because of, and you always look forward to a time when they will be able to redeem themselves."

Rights groups have accused Myanmar's army of serious rights violations including rape, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers.

The military remains locked in an escalating conflict with rebels in the northern Kachin state - where tens of thousands of people have been displaced since June 2011 - despite the announcement of a unilateral ceasefire this month.

Ms Suu Kyi said she was happy to admit that she wanted to become Myanmar's president, and dismissed politicians who pretend they are not hungry for power.

Like all guests on Desert Island Discs, the longest-running show on British radio, which celebrated its 70th birthday last year, Ms Suu Kyi was asked to choose eight songs she would like to take with her to a mythical island as a castaway.

She asked friends and family to choose many of the songs, which included Imagine by John Lennon and Green, Green Grass of Home by Tom Jones.