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

Comments

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 25.

    I would think that a quick look around the planet will have most Burmese saying 'Do we want that? Here? Not on your life'. This is not a great time to be advocating western style government.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 24.

    Good news. Burma appears to be entering a phase of long overdue positive engagement with the world. I agree that we must view any reform with caution, and with regards the prospect of US influence, to be honest, perhaps this is one part of the world where Obama politics could be highly effective with a net positive result for the Burmese people.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 23.

    I suggest that the poor Burmese people are the frontier pawn between US and China. The military regime are eccentric and peculiar. The new supposed capital built at huge expense out in jungle is deserted not even wives of top officials willing to move there. No handbags and shopping malls I suppose. China will be very angry if Burma turns democratic!!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 22.

    Standing for election to parliament is one thing. The transparency of the elections is another.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 21.

    If a by-election happen in Myanmar, the junta will let NLD win for some seats
    Optimistic; may be a start for changes.
    Pessimistic; a bit worrying. I recall many NLD seniors did not willing to recognise ethnic's right for federal state in 1988 era, when the future seemed golden for NLD. It may be something they have in common for both NLD and junta. May be not.
    No wonder NLDs prefer to use 'Burma'

  • 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
    +1

    Comment number 19.

    6.
    Phil
    43 Minutes ago

    @3 Why does the BBC still insist in calling Myanmar Burma?

    Presumably for much the same reasons as using Wales instead of Cymru and Finland instead of Suomi.

    Actually the UK Government don't call it Myanmar as a protest against the regime. Apparently. (I always add this now, you can't be too careful)

  • 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.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 16.

    So what?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 15.

    to Rogerstorer: in short, the BBC does not recognise the legitimacy of the regime that changed the country's name to Myanmar, here's an interesting article:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7013943.stm
    I really hope that with the help of Suu Kyi, real change towards democracy can be achieved in Burma, the people of this country deserve it, they are wonderful!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 14.

    "Aung San Suu Kyi to stand for parliament in Burma." I really do have to admire this lady. The world could do with a few more like her.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 13.

    Still don't see why the NLD's 1990 election win isn't recognised internationally and the party considered the legitimate government.

    But anyway, am very glad things are changing.

    Mind you, it always helps to have oil (and other natural resources) when you want to grease international support for democracy, doesn't it!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    The democracy movement call it Burma (see nldburma.org).

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 11.

    Here we go again. First, we can't smoke in cars, now the NLD have rejoined mainstream Burmese politics. Time was you could say what you wanted...what next, a Mouth Tax?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 10.

    rogerstorer: I believe the BBC continue to call it "Burma" because Myanmar was a name given to the country by the current government, which the BBC (and many others, of course) refuse to acknowledge as legitimate.

    Wikipedia is as ever quite enlightening on this topic:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma#Etymology

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 9.

    The NLD and Thein Sein share a common Burmar nationalism. I would say change in Yangon and Nay Pyi Daw for a show doesn't mean change in the whole Burma. Whilst change for Burmar race in lower Burma; there will be more refugees, human rights abuses, racial discrimination and religious persecution in the ethnic states. The BBC should apply a permanent permit to report from inside Burma.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 8.

    Hopefully all the vicious generals have decided to retire (with their ill-gotten gains) and let Burma (Myanmar) become a democracy. Aung San Suu Kyi deserves to be leader as recognition of her devotion to liberating the Burmese, but I'm sure she will rejoice even if not chosen provided democracy returns. A truly honorable person - something many other politicians should aspire too.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 7.

    to Rogerstorer: The name Myanmar was imposed by the military government. Perhaps some see using it as complicity? In a wider context, I think we can get too hung up on how place names are pronounced. I, for examples, am not offended by the French calling our capital Londres. Surely, unless it's a pejorative term, any name with broad currency may be used.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 6.

    @3 Why does the BBC still insist in calling Myanmar Burma?

    Presumably for much the same reasons as using Wales instead of Cymru and Finland instead of Suomi. I don't believe its anything to do with the bbc being overly colonial, more to do with what the general public will recognise, especially older people. It takes many years for a "new" name to become the generally used one.

 

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