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Myanmar's Suu Kyi: 'I want to run for president'

By Hilary Whiteman, CNN
June 6, 2013 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • People want to feel included as Myanmar changes, Suu Kyi says
  • She was speaking at the World Economic Forum
  • She says the majority are not seeing the benefits of reform

Naypyidaw, Myanmar (CNN) -- Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is blunt and unapologetic.

"I want to run for president and I'm quite frank about it," she told a panel during the first day open discussion at the World Economic Forum in Myanmar on Thursday.

"If I pretended that I didn't want to be president, I wouldn't be honest and I would rather be honest with my people than otherwise."

Suu Kyi's determination to drag her country free from the stifling restraint of an military regime is finally being realized more than two and a half years after her release from years of house arrest.

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However, two years into the presidency of Thein Sein, she says that the vast majority of Myanmar's people are not seeing the benefits of reform.

"If you talk to the man on the street, if you talk to people in villages, the great majority of them would say that their lives have not changed since 2010. "

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'This is a transformation time'

Her assertion was backed by a number of people in the busy Bogalay Market in downtown Yangon.

Win Shwe stood in a long coat at the market entrance, raising his hand every now and then as if to bless passersby. The 72-year-old was begging for a note or two of the local currency, the kyat

"This is a transformation time. But for poor people, nothing's changed. The government mechanism is corruption," he said.

Sitting beside her daughter nearby at a flower stall, Khin Than Win, 52, said: "I agree that this is a transformation time. But I see that the streets and the roads are wider than before. That's the only change."

People "want to feel that they have been included in the process of change," Suu Kyi told the panel.

"And that's nothing to do with the number of cars that you now see in Rangoon (Yangon) or the number of magazines that you can buy because the vast majority of our people have no access to those."

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Suu Kyi: Amend constitution

To clear the way for her presidency, Suu Kyi said the country's constitution had to change.

As it stands, the former political prisoner is ineligible to contest the presidency because of a clause that bans anyone with a foreign spouse or child.

Suu Kyi's late husband, Michael Aris, was English and her two sons have British passports.

Asked whether she was reasonably optimistic that those changes would be made, Suu Kyi said, "I don't believe in indulging in optimism. Let me put it this way. I've always said hope has to be backed up by endeavor.

"So, rather than being optimistic or hoping that the constitution will be amended we're going to work for the constitution to be amended."

But while many see Suu Kyi as the country's best chance for the future, she's been criticized for not being vocal enough in defense of the rights of Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine State.

Human Rights Watch has accused the Myanmar government of the "systematic and wide ranging persecution" of the Rohingya who it also says have been the target of ethnic cleansing.

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Minister: Change needs time

Suu Kyi says she has been speaking out "but it's just that they're not hearing what they want to hear from me."

"I cannot doctor my answers to please everybody. I have to say what I believe in. And I believe that the rule of law is the first step towards any kind of solution to the problem in Rakhine State and other parts of the country."

"We must get to the point of reassessing the law to see if it comes up to international norms or not."

She added, "I would like all of the world to understand that we are aware of the difficulties in our country and we're doing our best to cope with it. When I say 'we,' I'm not talking about the government, I'm talking about ordinary people in Burma."

A government minister also on the panel said he agreed that the constitution had to change, but stressed that decades of military rule had created binds that would take time to unravel.

"We need time. We are in the dark ages. The other system was in place about 60 years. We have an idea to arrange for everything we have to change, but we need time," said Union Minister Soe Thane.

"We have to untie the rope. It's very difficult but we must do it. We must think about the democracy. We must think of the economic development of 60 million people."

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