Myanmar’s Parliament approved on Tuesday the creation of a new post for Aung San Suu Kyi, head of the country’s newly installed ruling party, that is similar to prime minister.
Suu Kyi is banned by the constitution from becoming president because her children hold foreign citizenship. The bill establishing the position of state counsellor was opposed by the military’s representatives in Parliament, but passed easily because of the strong majority that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won in last November’s election.
The bill must be signed by President Htin Kyaw, Suu Kyi’s close ally, before taking effect. The military representatives, who under the constitution drafted under the former military regime hold 25% of Parliament’s seats, boycotted Tuesday’s vote, standing in protest.
Suu Kyi, who is already foreign minister, met with visiting Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi. China is Myanmar’s biggest neighbour and most important economic partner, and was the main ally of the former military government. It has come under criticism for allegedly exploitative and environmentally unsound projects in Myanmar.
The projects include a mega-dam and mines in the country’s northern Kachin state, a gas pipeline in western Rakhine state, a large copper mine in central Myanmar and several special economic zones.
At a news conference after their meeting, neither minister indicated whether those sensitive issues had been discussed. Wang congratulated Myanmar on installing its first civilian government in decades and declared that China would work only on projects that were beneficial to both countries.
The move to make Suu Kyi the country’s de facto top leader, initiated last week, was the new government’s first legislative act. Suu Kyi, 70, originally took on four cabinet posts - foreign affairs, education, energy and the President’s office - but dropped the education and energy portfolios as the move to give her the influential new position was launched.