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THANLYIN, Myanmar – Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi compared Myanmar's young democracy on Friday to a malnourished child that is unable to thrive in an environment in which politicians are more interested in personal power than the rights of the people.
"It's been five years, but it's still a baby," she told thousands of supporters in Thanlyin, a township across the river from the old capital, Yangon.
Her comments follow a week of political intrigue and crisis.
In a power play ahead of Nov. 8 nationwide elections, one of her closest allies, Shwe Mann, was ousted as chairman of the ruling party and there are concerns now that he won't be eligible for the country's top job.
Experts say the reform-minded former general was purged partly because he was seen as a threat to President Thein Sein, who has strong military backing and has expressed interest in a second term.
"It's like a malnourished democratic country," Suu Kyi said. "Candidates should not be competing for power, they should compete to take responsibility for people in the country."
In 2010, Myanmar's long-time military rulers agreed to hand over power to a nominally civilian government. But the transition has been bumpy. While there have been significant changes, including the freeing up of the media and the release of political prisoners, experts say many of the reforms have been cosmetic.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said after a half century of dictatorship, there needs to be a change in the way people think about government.
"People do not dare to say the government needs to be changed, as they think it is unspeakable or a crime," she said. "In democratic countries, political parties change the government and system all the time."