Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi sworn in to parliament

The BBC's Rachel Harvey said Aung San Suu Kyi will now need to make allies within parliament

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been sworn in as a member of Burma's parliament, a month after her party's sweeping victory in by-elections.

She and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) had initially refused to take part in a swearing-in ceremony due to the wording of an oath.

But on Monday they agreed to compromise, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Burma.

The ceremony marks the first time the Nobel laureate has held public office.

Ms Suu Kyi told reporters after the ceremony that she and her fellow NLD lawmakers would "carry out our duties within the parliament as we have been carrying out our duties outside the parliament for the last 20 or so years".

She also said it did not "bother" her to sit with the military despite her long fight for democracy.

Analysis

Eighteen months ago, Aung San Suu Kyi was still under house arrest, detained by the old military leadership.

Today, she took her place in Row G of the parliamentary chamber, just across the aisle from the men in uniform, for whom a quarter of the seats are reserved.

She and her party had vowed to change the constitution to remove the armed forces from politics. But she said it did not bother her to be sitting so close to them.

"I have tremendous good will towards the military," she said.

There needs to be more gestures of goodwill, more compromises in the years ahead, if Burma's reform process is to continue.

Aung San Suu Kyi told the BBC that her arrival in parliament was a continuation of her political journey.

It also marks another important step in her country's political transition.

"We would like our parliament to be in line with genuine democratic values. It's not because we want to remove anybody as such, we just want to make the kind of improvements that would make our national assembly truly democratic," she said.

Despite their 1 April poll victory, Ms Suu Kyi and her fellow NLD lawmakers will remain very much in the minority in parliament.

A quarter of the seats are reserved for the military and a large majority of the others are held by the military-backed ruling party.

But the introduction of the Aung San Suu Kyi-led opposition into parliament marks a key step as Burma's new government continues to reform, say observers.

'Flexibility'

Ms Suu Kyi took the oath of office at the parliament building in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

The NLD had objected to promising to "safeguard" the constitution drafted by the old military government and wanted to change the wording to "respect", but later backed down.

"The reason we accept (the oath), firstly is the desire of the people. Our voters voted for us because they want to see us in parliament," Ms Suu Kyi said.

However, the constitution - which enshrines the armed forces' role in politics - will continue to be the focus of political battles in Burma, reports the BBC's Rachel Harvey in Nay Pyi Taw.

Ms Suu Kyi's parliamentary debut comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity, as the outside world seeks to support the reforms introduced by the civilian-led government.

On Monday UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed Burma's parliament as part of three-day visit and met President Thein Sein, a former military figure who now leads the government.

A day later he met Ms Suu Kyi at her house in Rangoon and said she had accepted an invitation to visit the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Mr Ban said that he welcomed her decision to compromise over the oath in the interests of the greater good.

"A real leader demonstrates flexibility for the greater cause of the people," he said. "I'm sure she'll play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian."

The UN chief earlier called a further easing of sanctions on Burma. He said he was encouraged by recent reform efforts, but said the process of change was fragile and needed nurturing.

Ms Suu Kyi has said she supports retaining some restrictions to ensure that the pace of reform continues.

More on This Story

Burma's Transition

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