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Sulamani Temple: History repeats itself

Published August 30, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/travel/Sulamani-Temple-History-repeats-itself-30293996.html

Phoowadon Duangmee
The Nation August 28, 2016 7:47 pm

MYANMAR

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake in Central Myanmar has damaged many stupas and temples in the plain of Bagan

Built in 1181 by King Narapatisithu of Bagan, Sulamani means a small ruby.

The temple pretty much survived the 1975 earthquake, except for the gilded top that crashed to the ground. The restoration was completed later with new spire and gilded umbrella.

Unfortunately, the earthquake on August 24 repeated Sulamani Temple’s story, crumbling and leaving the spire on the dusty ground again.

Sulamani Temple is one of the most-visited historical sites in old Bagan. It is home to magnificent frescoes, some of them perhaps influenced by Siamese art.

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At the gallery in the Northern corridor there is a beautiful piece of fresco telling a praying scene. Villagers – both men and women – are seated together and leaning into the Lord Buddha. Some Myanmar academic and tour guide suggest that this painting might get influenced by Siamese art.

Coincidentally enough, “The Nation” published a piece on Sulamani “Within these walls” on the day of the earthquake. To read on, please visit www.nationmultimedia.com/t…/Within-these-walls-30293653.html

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Shan community groups want Salween dams scrapped

Published August 26, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/national/Shan-community-groups-want-Salween-dams-scrapped-30293649.html

MYANMAR

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Representatives of Shan communities have expressed serious concerns on the ongoing plan to construct a series of hydropower dams on the Salween River, saying many areas are still plagued with ongoing fighting between minority groups and the government.

Shan State Rivers Network’s coordinator Sai Khur Hseng said at a press conference on Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Bangkok, that areas designated for dam sites, especially in Shan State adjacent to China’s Yunnan province were still plagued with the sporadic fighting.

Among the planned dams is the 1,200MW Naung Pha Dam proposed by a Chinese firm at a site. But fighting between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups had been going on west of the site and the United Wa State Army occupied areas to the east, the group said.

The group said some aspects of the pre-construction process such as public consultation, were not being disclosed publicly.

For instance, locals invited to “public consultations” on the Naung Pha were only informed about the meetings hours in advance.

Charm Tong, from the Shan Women’s Action Network, said villagers in the state had staged protests against the dam at least twice last month.

Apart from concerns that the dam would cause increased fighting and displacement, villagers feared the dam could be risky given the area is prone to earthquakes and flooding.

Despite their concerns, shortly before Aung Suu Kyi‘s state visit to China last week, the National League for Democracy government announced that it would proceed with the Salween dams, to address Burma’s energy needs.

Last week, Shan community groups wrote an open letter to Suu Kyi urging her to scrap the Salween dams. They warned that unilaterally selling off the Salween, a vital artery for millions of ethnic people in eastern Myanmar, would undermine the peace process.

“The government should rather give an importance to the environment and the unity of people in the country first,” Sai Khur Hseng said. “For locals, the rivers are always more important than the electricity, because it’s the source of their livelihood.”

Within these walls

Published August 25, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/travel/Within-these-walls-30293653.html

MYANMAR

A fresco in the southern corridor of Sulamani Temple, Bagan, depicts the Lord Buddha and his apprentice monks. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

A fresco in the southern corridor of Sulamani Temple, Bagan, depicts the Lord Buddha and his apprentice monks. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

A young Buddhist apprentice offers lotus flowers to the Lord Buddha in a mural at Bagan’s Sulamani Temple. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

The corridors inside the temple, which are dimly lit by the daylight, lead visitors to walls of murals illustrating the life of the Lord Buddha. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

A fresco portrays a Buddhist praying scene. The old-fashioned hairstyles and slimmer bodies suggest that those praying are of Siamese origin. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

Bhikkhuni – female Buddhist monks – are portrayed on the wall of Sulamani Temple. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

Portrait of the king of Bagan’s ministers in the southern corridor of Sulamani Temple. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

Sulamani Temple in Bagan is home to magnificent frescoes, some of them perhaps influenced by Siamese art

Known as the valley of 2,000 pagodas, the ancient city of Bagan is the highlight of any visit to Myanmar.

Located on the vast plains of Upper Myanmar on the bend of the Ayeyarawaddy, its beauty stems not just from its gilded pagodas and stone temples but its murals. And the frescos at one temple alone – the Sulamani – are worth a second and even third trip to Bagan.

“Sulamani means a small ruby,” says Naung Naung, my tour guide in Bagan, as we walk through the point-arched gateway. “The temple itself was built around 1181 by King Narapatisithu of Bagan.”

With its lush grounds, Sulamani Temple is one of the most-visited historical sites in old Bagan. Vendors line the approach to the temple, which combines the massive forms of the early Bagan period with the vertical lines of the middle period.

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“The brickwork throughout the Sulamani is regarded as some of the best stonemasonry in Bagan,” says the guide. “The building pretty much survived the 1975 earthquake, except for the gilded top that crashed to the ground.”

This is my second trip to Sulamani Temple.

Last year, I travelled in a small horse-drawn carriage across the dusty Bagan valley to the “small ruby” of Narapatisithu. Back then, I was stunned by the massive form and the height of Sulamani. I sat down under the tree and gazed at the majestic stupa without bothering to move inside.

On my second trip, I am tempted into the interior to see what one local intellectual describes as a “Siamese link” with the monastery. Tin Tin Aye – a member of the conservation group Bagan Heritage Trust – earlier told me about the Siamese influences on at least one of the frescoes and he showed me a photo of the mural painting, which shows the Lord Buddha seating under the hood of Naga, the serpent. The mural, Tin Tin Aye is convinced, is more Siamese than Burmese and now that I’m here, I cannot wait to see the fresco in question.

“There’s much to see inside. Be patient, we will get to the piece that interests you the most,” says Naung Naung with a smile.

The Sulamani is erected on a rectangular base with Buddha images facing the four directions from the ground floor.

The interior passage and hallways are barely illuminated by the light coming in through the windows and porches. The base is covered with frescoes dating back to the 12th Century.

From the main entrance on the east, we stroll anticlockwise.

Reclining and seated Buddhas, finely decorated elephants, characters holding lotus flowers, and other scenes depicting the Lord Buddha cover the walls.

The corridors are narrow and there’s not much light – enough to admire the beauty and harmony of the wall paintings but inadequate to take good photos. Still, I can’t help but be mesmerised by these images of such unexpected beauty.

“The frescoes here were painted in the 12th and 18th centuries,” says Naung Naung. “The earlier works are damaged and faded due to the sunlight.

When it comes to damage, he adds, unwise restoration by man has been much worse than that done by nature. The early frescoes were restored in the 18th Century. The artists repainted the faded mural in more vivid colours. Some original postures were repainted to make them, perhaps, politically correct. The painting of the monks around the Lord Buddha, for example, were reproduced from sitting upright to leaning towards Lord Buddha.

“The artists in the 18th century rubbed out the original painting by covering it with white plaster before recreating new figures,” says Naung Naung. “Ironically, if you look closer you will be able to retrace and figure out the original painting, which is way more beautiful.”

At the gallery in the Northern corridor we finally find what we’re looking for.

The Myanmar guide positions his flashlight on the wall to reveal a scene typical of praying. Villagers – both men and women – are seated together and leaning into the Lord Buddha. To be honest, the bare-chested men look good with their old-fashioned hairstyles. The women, with beautiful curvy lines and many small details, are way slimmer than the native girls of Bagan. And the portrait of Lord Buddha itself is very different from the Buddhas we saw earlier in the Eastern corridor. This mural painting emphasises the flame on top of Buddha’s head, which is very common in the Buddha images found in Thailand. In Bagan tradition, the Buddha usually wears a topknot.

“We believe they’re Siamese. They’re Thai,” says the Myanmar guide.

I want to believe it too. With its sharp lines and paint strokes, the fresco reminds me of the mural paintings in Thailand’s temples. It will have to remain a supposition though. We don’t have academic support.

Nuang Naung and the Trust’s Tin Tin Aye believe that the Burmese might have been influenced by Siamese art. They point to the Burmese sackings of the Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1569 and 1767, when artists were most likely among the Siamese taken hostage in what is today’s Myanmar. Ayutthaya art, they say, might well have played a part in the restoration of Sulamani Temple in the 18th Century.

Next to the “praying scene” is a sizeable portrait of the Buddha seated under the hood of the mystical serpent known as the Naga. The guide suggests that this portrait was also influenced by Siamese art.

But whether they are or not, I am fascinated by these images of such unexpected beauty. The interior face of the wall was once lined with 100 monastic cells, a feature unique among Bagan’s ancient monasteries.

In the Western corridor we find a painting of finely decorated elephants. Then another painting, of men, their heads covered with white scarves, arms raised as if to ask for attention.

“Who are these people?” I ask, gesturing to the men.

“They’re ministers giving advice to the king in the royal court,” the guide replies.

Politicians – I should have guessed. They always demand attention.

IF YOU GO

< Bangkok Airways operates flights between Bangkok and Mandalay, the gateway to Bagan. Taking a cruise from Mandalay to Bagan is recommended – especially in the winter when the banks of the Ayeyarawaddy River are dramatically beautiful.

Rolling down the River

Published August 13, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/travel/Rolling-down-the-River-30292016.html

MYANMAR

The Strand Cruise takes in the Ayeyarwaddy River in Upper Myanmar. Photo/Courtesy of the Strand Cruise

The Strand Cruise takes in the Ayeyarwaddy River in Upper Myanmar. Photo/Courtesy of the Strand Cruise

The valley of pagodas comes into the view as the Strand Cruise approaches the ancient kingdom of Bagan. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

The valley of pagodas comes into the view as the Strand Cruise approaches the ancient kingdom of Bagan. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

A fresco of reclining Buddha in Salami Temple, Bagan, Myanmar. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

A fresco of reclining Buddha in Salami Temple, Bagan, Myanmar. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

A fresco of a praying scene in Sulamani Temple of Bagan, Myanmar, shows the Siamese influence through the elegant postures, slim bodies and old-fashioned hairstyles. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

A fresco of a praying scene in Sulamani Temple of Bagan, Myanmar, shows the Siamese influence through the elegant postures, slim bodies and old-fashioned hairstyles. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

An old Myanmar woman smokes a cheroot at the entrance to Hsinbyume Pagoda. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

An old Myanmar woman smokes a cheroot at the entrance to Hsinbyume Pagoda. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

A map in the Strand Cruise shows the route along the Ayeyarwaddy River in Upper Myanmar. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

A map in the Strand Cruise shows the route along the Ayeyarwaddy River in Upper Myanmar. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

The Strand Cruise offers fine dining with a menu of traditional Myanmar food and French cuisine. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

The Strand Cruise offers fine dining with a menu of traditional Myanmar food and French cuisine. The Nation/Phoowadon Duangmee

The ‘real’ Myanmar emerges on a slow boat to Mandalay, the Strand Cruise

The Romance of old Mandalay all but dissipated when the Chinese moved into the former capital to seek their fortunes in jade and other gemstones excavated from Myanmar’s mines. Once home to King Thibaw, Burma’s last monarch, and a home away from home for British writer George Orwell, Mandalay is today little more than a satellite of China. Yet there is still romance to be found – all you have to do is board a boat and take to the Ayeyarwaddy River.

As our Strand Cruise skates over the surface of the water, chaos gives way to calm and the effect is almost spiritual. Here, along the Ayeyarwaddy River, or the Irrawaddy as it is sometimes called, both the land and the people are authentic. Now and then, we see Myanmar women negotiating the muddy paths as they balance earthen pots on their heads. The air is thick with the fragrances of cheroots and betel, the view from the boat composed of remote villages, gilded pagodas, tier-roofed monasteries and old palaces.

“When we leave Mandalay tonight, we will follow the river downstream to Bagan,” begins Neville, who is acting as cruise manager, as he briefs us at the bar on the sun deck. “When night falls, we will moor in a remote district.”

The Strand Cruise gets its name from its sister – the iconic and legendary Strand Hotel in Yangon. This luxurious new ship began plying the waters early in 2016 taking passengers on stylish river cruises on the historic section of Ayeyarwaddy River. The Strand Cruise is geared towards adventurous culture buffs, the kind of people who want to walk through the villages to search for the Myanmar spirit and heritage but also appreciate a spa treatment and glasses of chardonnay when they get back.

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The expedition takes four days travelling from Mandalay to Bagan and five on the return journey.

On our first day onboard, we stop at Mingun and Sagaing to admire the unfinished pagoda and big bell of Mingun and the whitewashed Hsinbyume Pagoda, whose melancholy tale is similar to that of the Taj Mahal. We return to the ship in time for a sunset cocktail and a delightful dinner of traditional Myanmar dishes, all of which are excellent.

Built locally, the Strand Cruise offers 27 cabin suites and 24 hour butler service. The luxurious ship also hosts a spacious pool deck, wellness centre and wine tasting corner as well as gourmet a la carte cuisine in a restaurant with panoramic views of the river. In short, it’s a floating and compact version of the legendary hotel.

My cabin, 201, is on the main deck. Luxurious as it is stylish, there is plenty of room to move. The wall is adorned with black-and-white photos of old Burma, including a beautiful portrait of a young Burmese woman. Every evening, as the passengers share travel tales over the dining table, the housekeeper slips into our cabins to turn down the beds and leave a Burmese puppet or another delightful souvenir.

We reach Ava on the second day. Nestled on the left bank of Ayeyarwaddy River, Ava or Inwa is the ancient imperial capital of Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries. Ravaged by war and natural disasters over the years, Ava today is scarcely larger than a rural backwater dotted with ruins, monastic buildings and stupas. We explore the remains of the abandoned kingdom by horse cart before taking a break at a roadside café for sweet tea and bean cake.

Back on board, the Strand Cruise resumes its journey towards Bagan.

With the bar, books and board game, the Upper Deck is understandably the most popular spot with passengers. You can bury yourself in a sofa with George Orwell’s “Burmese Days”, or take a glass of wine out to the sun deck for panoramic views of the historic river.

Also known as the “Elephant River”, the Ayeyarwaddy begins at the top of the snow-capped Himalayas then flows for roughly 1,550km passing through the centre of Myanmar before throwing itself into the Andaman Sea. Thousands of temples, stupas as well as royal capitals stand on its banks.

Water levels in July and August are high and it is sometimes impossible to tell the riverbank from the sky. Both – water and sky – look grey. As we sail downstream, we can see the widespread flooding that has left hamlets and pagodas under water. In the distance, people in small sampans bob up and down on the river.

On the second night, the Strand Cruise is moored at Pakokku – a remote township 30 kilometres northwest of Bagan. From my cabin, I can see Myanmar’s longest bridge spanning the river.

About 7.30am on the third day, the very first Myanmar Empire comes into view. From the sun deck, I can clearly see a large white pagoda sitting on the left bank. The tips of other pagodas gradually come into view, shooting up over the mist that lies thick over the forest. As the ship gets closer, the valley of Bagan reveals itself with many more pagodas in different shapes and colours, varying from white bell-shaped pagodas to betel-spit red with a gilded umbrella on top.

“From the plain-looking pagoda of the common man to the gilded pagoda of the kings, the valley of Bagan has more than 2,000 pagodas,” Tin Tin Aye, a member of the Bagan Heritage Trust explains before we disembark for our pagoda visit.

Tucked away in the country’s uplands and nestled along a bend of the Ayeyarwaddy River, Bagan was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan – the first kingdom to unify on the Ayeyarwaddy Plain. The city enjoyed its glory for two-and-a-half centuries before falling to Kublai Khan’s raiders.

You need a week or more to see the 2,000 pagodas from different angles. Unfortunately, we have only one days in Bagan so we pick the most important. Shwezigon Pagoda of King Anawrahta, Gubyaukgyi temple with its fresco, and of course the famous Ananda Temple are on our list.

I fall in love with the fresco at Sulamani Temple. The corridors inside the temple, which is dimly lit by the daylight, leads us to the murals, which illustrate the lives of the Lord Buddha. Dominated by red complemented by yellow, green and a hue so dark that it could be black, the fresco is from the 12th century. Naung Naung, our guide in Bagan, takes us to the dark corridor before shining her torch on a painting of a Buddhist praying scene.

“We believe this is a scene of Siam,” says Naung Naung. “The hairstyle, the elegant postures and the slim bodies are not so common in Myanmar.”

Nuang Naung and Tin Tin Aye from the Bagan Heritage Trust believe that the Burmese were influenced by Siamese art, pointing out that following the fall of Ayutthaya, artists were most likely among the Siamese brought as hostages to Burma. Ayutthaya art, they say, could well have played a part in the restoration of Sulamani Temple in the 18th Century.

Back on the ship, we find the crew has arranged a cultural show complete with traditional Myanmar dance for our farewell night.

Not too formal an event, the traditional music and performance set against the backdrop of a pagoda valley transport us, at least spiritually, to the days of old Burma.

IF YOU GO

Bangkok Airways operates flight from/to Bangkok and Mandalay. All inclusive 3-night cruise (Mandalay – Bagan) starts at US$1,782 (double Occupancy) and $2,673 (single occupancy) per person. For more deals, visit www.thestrandcruise.com.

 

Suu Kyi to visit migrants in Mahachai

Published June 15, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Suu-Kyi-to-visit-migrants-in-Mahachai-30287649.html

MYANMAR

File Photo : Suu Kyi in Thailand.

File Photo : Suu Kyi in Thailand.

MYANMAR’S State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi will visit migrant workers in Mahachai again when she arrives in Thailand for an official visit this month.

The fate and well-being of millions of people from Myanmar who work in Thailand will be highlighted during her visit from June 23-25, Foreign Minister Don Pramuwinai said. Suu Kyi will visit a Myanmar community in Thailand but the location has not yet been fixed, he said.

However, Chiang Mai-based website The Irrawaddy reported that she would visit the fishing town of Mahachai in Samut Sakhon province, which is home to a large Myanmar migrant worker community.

“She will go and meet them in order to hear their experiences and the difficulties they are facing,” Myanmar Foreign Ministry director-general Kyaw Zeya was quoted as saying in regard to Suu Kyi‘s trip.

Suu Kyi met migrant workers from Myanmar in Mahachai during a visit in 2012 when she spoke at the World Economic Forum in Bangkok. She also visited Mae La refugee camp in Mae Sot.

About 120,000 refugees – mainly ethnic Karen and others who fled conflict and repression at home – have lived in border camps in Thailand for more than 30 years. Tens of thousands more have been resettled abroad.

Officials from both countries have discussed plans to repatriate them for years once conflicts with the military and government were settled. The previous administration headed by Thein Sein signed a ceasefire deal with eight groups last October but seven others refused to be part of it.

Some groups that signed the pact are still involved in conflict.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday that this country would help Myanmar carry out national reconciliation by “not supporting” minority groups to fight the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army).

He stressed that Thai assistance would be what has been requested by Nay Pyi Taw and not according to a Thai agenda. “They asked us, so we have to help them,” the PM said at his weekly news briefing. “We’re not poking our noses in their [Myanmar] affairs,” he said. “They have to operate their domestic things. Do you like when foreigners come to try to organise our conflicts and the referendum [process] in our country? Aren’t you ashamed of that?”

He denied any plan to negotiate with Suu Kyi on these matters. “I can’t negotiate. These affairs do not belong to my country,” he said.

Myanmar’s parliament elects Suu Kyi confidant as president

Published March 16, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/national/Myanmars-parliament-elects-Suu-Kyi-confidant-as-pr-30281624.html

MYANMAR

File photo : Htin Kyaw//Reuters

File photo : Htin Kyaw//Reuters

Nay Pyi Taw – Myanmar’s lawmakers Tuesday elected a close aide and longtime friend of Aung San Suu Kyi to become the country’s first civilian president in decades, in a historic moment for the formerly junta-run nation.

Naypyitaw – Myanmar’s parliament electeda close friend and confidant of Nobel laureate Aung SanSuu Kyias president on Tuesday, making Htin Kyaw the first head ofstate who does not hail from a military background since the1960s.

Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy (NLD) to alandslide election win in November, but a constitution draftedby the former junta bars her from the top office.

She has vowed to run the country anyway through a proxy, andon Thursday the NLD nominated Htin Kyaw for the role. He runs acharity founded by Suu Kyi and has been a trusted member of herinner circle since the mid-1990s. He is not a lawmaker.

Htin Kyaw received 360 votes of the 652 cast, the parliamentary official counting the votes said on Tuesday.//AFP

Parliament holds historic presidential election

Published March 16, 2016 by SoClaimon

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/national/Parliament-holds-historic-presidential-election-30281619.html

MYANMAR

Myanmar National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi sits during a union parliament session on March 15. Myanmar's parliament is set to elect a new president from three candidates put forward by the Parliament and the military.//AFP

Myanmar National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi sits during a union parliament session on March 15. Myanmar’s parliament is set to elect a new president from three candidates put forward by the Parliament and the military.//AFP

Win Myint, chairman of the lower house parliamentattends a union parliament session on March 15. Reports state that the NLD's Htin Kyaw, an ally of Aung San Suu Kyi, is widely expected to win the vote.//EPA

Win Myint, chairman of the lower house parliamentattends a union parliament session on March 15. Reports state that the NLD’s Htin Kyaw, an ally of Aung San Suu Kyi, is widely expected to win the vote.//EPA

People watch a live broadcast on Myanmar president voting in parliament in Yangon on March 15.//AFP

People watch a live broadcast on Myanmar president voting in parliament in Yangon on March 15.//AFP

Naypyidaw, Myanmar – Myanmar lawmakers began casting ballots in a historic presidential vote Tuesday expected to confirm that a trusted confidant and anointed proxy of Aung San Suu Kyi will be the former junta-run nation’s first civilian leader in decades.

Htin Kyaw, a respected writer and longtime close friend of Suu Kyi, is virtually guaranteed to sweep the board, with both legislative houses dominated by the Nobel laureate’s National League for Democracy thanks to its election landslide in November.

“We are going to start electing the president now,” parliament speaker, Mann Win Khaing Than told lawmakers. Suu Kyi was the first to cast her vote.

Myanmar is in the grip of a stunning transformation from an isolated and repressed pariah state to a rapidly opening aspiring democracy.

But the military remains a powerful force in the Southeast Asian nation and has refused to change a clause in the junta-era constitution that bars Suu Kyi from top political office.

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The veteran activist has instead vowed to rule “above” the next leader.

Her choice of Htin Kyaw to act in her place is seen as a testament to her absolute faith in his loyalty.

“We have planned to vote for Htin Kyaw and practised not to make any mistake,” said an NLD MP who asked not to be named after attending an instruction session by the party on Monday afternoon.

Myanmar’s new president will replace incumbent Thein Sein at the end of the month following five years of army-backed quasi-civilian leadership that has been lauded for steering the nation out from the shadow of outright military rule.

Tuesday’s vote will see 652 legislators chose from three candidates, one put forward by each of the two legislative chambers and a third proposed by the military, who are reserved a quarter of seats in parliament.

The two other candidates are ethnic Chin MP Henry Van Thio, a Suu Kyi ally put forward by the upper house, and the military’s nominee Myint Swe, a retired army general still blacklisted by the United States.

Many challenges

Suu Kyi, 70, has unrivalled popularity both as the daughter of the country’s independence hero and as a central figure in the decades-long democracy struggle.

Her party’s huge election victory was seen as a further endorsement of her political star power, as millions were swept to polling stations by the NLD’s simple message of change.

Months of negotiations with army chief Min Aung Hlaing have failed to remove the obstacles blocking her from power.

Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency by a clause in the charter because she married and had children with a foreigner.

It is not yet clear what role she plans to take or how she will manage the relationship with the country’s new president.

A new cabinet, set to be announced at the end of the month, is expected to include figures from across the political spectrum as Suu Kyi looks to promote national reconciliation.

It will swiftly set about facing the country’s many challenges, including poverty, civil wars in ethnic minority borderlands and decrepit infrastructure.

Senior party figures say one of the government’s first tasks will be to whittle down myriad ministries by combining overlapping portfolios.

While little known outside Myanmar, Htin Kyaw, who helps run her charitable foundation, commands considerable respect inside the country, partly because his father was a legendary writer and early member of the NLD.

He is married to sitting NLD MP Su Su Lwin, whose late father was the party’s respected spokesman.

The military’s choice of Myint Swe, seen as a hardliner and close ally of former junta leader Than Shwe, however is proving controversial in a nation still smarting from half a century of army dominance.//AFP

 

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