Asia

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi makes landmark campaign speech

  • 14 March 2012
  • From the section Asia

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called for further political and judicial reforms in a landmark address on state-controlled media.

She called for "repressive laws" to be revoked, and constitutional reform and the "democratic rights of the people" to be better protected.

She also called for a freer media and a stronger judiciary.

Ms Suu Kyi's landmark message was the first time she was allowed to use state media to promote her political message.

In her speech, leaked a day in advance for those with internet access, she emphasised the need for democratic reforms and media freedom.

She was able to make the address under a government provision that allows parties contesting by-elections on 1 April to be given 15-minute slots on television and radio - a significant new departure in Burma.

The Nobel Peace laureate, who has spent much of the last 20 years in some form of detention because of her efforts to bring democracy to Burma, is standing for parliament in the rural township of Kawhmu, south-west of Rangoon.

In her address, Ms Suu Kyi outlined the broad themes at the heart of her campaign.

She is seen sitting behind a desk, with the red flag of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party behind her.

"All repressive laws must be revoked," she said, "and laws introduced to protect the rights of the people.

"The judiciary must be strengthened and released from political interference."

Correspondents say that although her remarks were tame by western standards, they were a step forward for Burma, which normally has repressive prior censorship of political speeches that are broadcast or appear in print media.

Although a section of her original script referring to the old military government was censored, Ms Suu Kyi delivered tough criticism of the new political system in Burma.

She cited a provision in the 2008 constitution, which reserves a quarter of all seats for the military in the country with a nominally civilian government.

Ms Suu Kyi outlined the broad basis of her election campaign in the address

She said that this meant that the current parliament is composed of unelected people - and that was not democracy.

The by-elections on 1 April are being seen as a key test of the Burmese government's commitment to recent democratic reforms.

There are 48 parliamentary seats being contested, but the NLD will stand in only 47 after one of its candidates was disqualified.

Even if the NLD wins all the seats, the military-backed government would still have a commanding majority in parliament.

The party boycotted the elections in November 2010 that saw a military junta replaced with a nominally civilian government backed by the armed forces.

Since then, the new administration has embarked down a road of reform, leading the NLD to rejoin the political process.

Western nations have said that they will match progress on reform with movement on sanctions.