by Alan Nichols

Assuming that the military will not change section 59f of the Constitution of Myanmar to permit Aung San Suu Kyi to stand for President on March 17, who are the most likely candidates? Whom could she trust?

asskMost commentators, from within Myanmar, from Thailand where so many displaced Burmese are, and from international sources, have as the Number One possibility U Tin Oo.

Who is he? He was a former army chief, many years ago. Tin Oo is aged 89, but appears healthy. If he becomes head of state in Burma’s young and fragile democracy, he will be one of the oldest serving presidents in the world. But then, he might be temporary. Parliament with the military’s agreement may change their Constitution, and elect the person whom the world expects.

In the spirit of Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel, Aung San Suu Kyi has been imprisoned by a military authority, cut off from the world, denied even access to health care, and has emerged as the world’s best known ex-prisoner. Both Mandela
and Havel went on after release from prison to become President of their country – South Africa and Czechoslovakia.

A former military commander-in-chief loyal to the late General Aung San and strongman Ne Win, Tin Oo joined the army in 1946, two years before Burma’s Independence. He was forced to retire in 1946, and served seven years in prison after being accused of treachery by Ne Win. Released in 1980, he returned to university to study law, preparing him later to co-found the National League for Democracy. He was active in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and remained loyal to Suu Kyi in the years that followed. [Source The Irrawaddy, February 2, 2106.Commentary by Aung Zaw. Photo (top) of Suu Kyi – by Nic Dunlop, 1991, copyright Alan Nichols]

In 1998, when I had the rare opportunity to meet Aung San Suu Kyi in her home in University Avenue, Yangon – in a brief period when she was free from house arrest – it was U Tin Oo who appeared with her, kept track of the conversation, and made sure the house was secure. If it is U Tin Oo who is nominated on March 17, many Burma-watchers will be confident that Aung San Suu  Kyi will be running the country.