Suu Kyi's NLD democracy party to rejoin Burma politics

 

Karishma Vaswani says leaders at the Asean summit have welcomed signs of progress in Burma

The party of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has agreed to re-enter the political process and contest parliamentary elections.

On Friday her National League for Democracy said it would register to run in the as yet unscheduled by-elections.

The party boycotted the last polls in November 2010, the first in 20 years.

Meanwhile the US is to send Hillary Clinton to Burma next month, amid what President Barack Obama called "flickers of progress" in the nation.

Mr Obama spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi before deciding to send Mrs Clinton, who will be the first US secretary of state to visit in 50 years.

BBC South East Asia correspondent Rachel Harvey says the developments are being seen as endorsements of the steps taken by the military-backed but civilian-led government towards political reform.

'Unanimous decision'

The announcement followed a meeting of 100 senior NLD leaders in Rangoon.

Analysis

Burma's NLD have decided to re-register as a party, although all of their disagreements with the government have not been resolved.

They have also agreed to put up candidates in all 48 seats up for by-election early next year, and Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to be among them.

Obstacles to them rejoining the political process had included the continued holding of political prisoners, government demands that any candidate should back the 2008 constitution, and the government's refusal to admit that the 1990 election was stolen from the NLD.

They have seen some movement in all three areas - and are assured by a promise made to Aung San Suu Kyi by reformist President Thein Sein that all political prisoners will be released soon.

They are also encouraged by a recent article in a state newspaper by the Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann "recognising" the victory of the NLD in the 1990 election.

"We unanimously decide that the National League for Democracy (NLD) will register according to party registration laws, and we will take part in the coming by-elections," a party statement said.

It boycotted the previous polls because of election laws that banned Aung San Suu Kyi - a former political prisoner - from running.

But this regulation has since been dropped, and Aung San Suu Kyi said she now wanted the party to contest all 48 seats left vacant in parliament by the appointment of ministers.

A spokesman for the NLD said it was likely that Aung San Suu Kyi would run for office. And the pro-democracy leader herself said she would do what she thought was necessary.

"If I think I should take part in the election, I will. Some people are worried that taking part could harm my dignity. Frankly, if you do politics, you should not be thinking about your dignity," AFP news agency quoted her as saying.

"I stand for the re-registration of the NLD party. I would like to work effectively towards amending the constitution. So we have to do what we need to do."

The NLD won elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power. Aung San Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest but was freed a year ago by the new government.

Since then it has entered into dialogue with her and freed some - but by no means all - political prisoners.

Aung San Suu Kyi has given a cautious welcome to the moves, but says more progress is needed.

'Concrete action'

REFORM IN BURMA

  • 7 Nov 2010: First polls in 20 years
  • 13 Nov: Aung San Suu Kyi freed from house arrest
  • 30 Mar 2011: Transfer of power to new government complete
  • 14 Aug: Aung San Suu Kyi allowed to leave Rangoon on political visit
  • 19 Aug: Aung San Suu Kyi meets Burmese President Thein Sein
  • 6 Oct: Human rights commission established
  • 12 Oct: More than 200 political prisoners freed
  • 13 Oct: New labour laws allowing unions passed
  • 17 Nov: Burma granted Asean chair in 2014

Mr Obama echoed her view in comments at a regional summit in Bali.

"Last night, I spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi directly and confirmed she supports American engagement to move this process forward," he said.

During her visit, Mrs Clinton would "explore whether the United States can empower a positive transition in Burma", he said.

"That possibility will depend on the Burmese government taking more concrete action. If Burma fails to move down the path of reform it will continue to face sanctions and isolation," he said.

The US maintains economic sanctions and travel bans against members of the former junta.

The announcement came a day after leaders of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) agreed that Burma could chair the regional bloc in 2014.

Burma was passed over for its turn at the rotating presidency last time because of its human rights record.

But Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said member states believed Burma had made significant progress towards democracy.

 

More on This Story

Burma's Transition

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  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 51.

    As a Burmese citizen, I am very happy that my country is finally moving forward. There still is a long way, but again Rome wasn't built in a day. There are some exile groups who want to keep our country in misery as long as possible for their own personal gains (like grants, funds, etc..) But at least west is wise enough to listen to the our people carefully but not falling for those evil exiles.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 43.

    All in all, maybe - just maybe, this IS the beginning of the irreversible positive change that the whole country has been looking forward to. We've been disappointed too often in the past with lame gestures, but it seems like some unbelievable changes in basic attitudes have really come about. Then again, we need to wait and watch what ensues in 2012.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 20.

    Its is up to the Burmese people what happens next but Im sceptical that Mrs Clintons visit will do much more than add weight to the arguments of those in Burma who would wish to resist western style democracy not least upon the grounds that such a move always comes with the price tag of American influence.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 18.

    Still got a long way to go. Need to complete the federal system initially proposed by Aung's father. No chance of that at this stage, or any time soon.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 17.

    This is literally the best news I've heard in years.

    I was incredibly cynical when I saw the new constitution and sham elections in Burma, but, while its best to remain cautious, the moves forward they've made since then have been incredible and there's a real sense of progress.

 

Comments 5 of 6

 

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