Burma upholds dissolution of Suu Kyi's NLD party

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to young people at the headquarters of the disbanded NLD party in Rangoon NLD lawyers said all that matters is public support for Aung San Suu Kyi

Burma's highest court has upheld the dissolution of the pro-democracy party led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The court ruled the NLD would remain an unlawful association because it refused to register for the recent election.

A lawyer for the NLD said the party could mount no further legal challenge.

The court's decision leaves Aung San Suu Kyi and her party outside formal politics in Burma. A new parliament, with substantial military presence, convenes for the first time next week.

The NLD won a resounding victory in Burma's last elections in 1990, but was kept from power by the military junta.

The party refused to re-register in order to take part in November's election, complaining that the conditions set by the junta were unfair and undemocratic.

Military-backed parties won by far the largest number of seats.

The ruling generals said the election marked a transition to democracy but opposition groups and Western nations have condemned the elections a sham.

Popular support

The Supreme Court ruled that the NLD's case had no legal basis, said Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyer, Nyan Win.

Analysis

The Supreme Court ruling leaves a question mark over whether the NLD headquarters in Rangoon will be allowed to remain open.

It suggests a future for the NLD as an association dedicated to welfare work. But it is unlikely to damage the stature of Aung San Suu Kyi.

More challenging for her and others in the democratic opposition is the need felt by many for reconciliation - between those, such as the NLD, who boycotted the voting, and those such as the National Democratic Force, a grouping not allied with the military government, which will take 16 seats in the parliament due to convene next week.

He told the BBC that only the chief justice could now change the ruling and that there was nothing else the NLD could do.

But he said: "Our existence and our legality does not change because of this court decision. Our party still exists. As Aung San Suu Kyi said, what really matters is the support of the people."

Another senior lawyer for the NLD said he had fully expected to lose the case. The bid to reinstate the party had already been dismissed four times by lower courts.

He said that everyone knew the courts were not independent and that all such trials were a one-way street to defeat.

The new parliament opens in the capital Naypyidaw on 31 January. It will mark the implementation of the new constitution and see the transfer of power from the military government to a parliament and president.

It is not yet clear whether senior leader Than Shwe is eyeing this role.

Under the junta-drafted constitution, the military is allocated 25% of seats in both houses of parliament and the state assemblies.

Representatives of military-linked parties - many of them former officers who stood down to stand in the polls - are expected the dominate the chambers.

But there will also be a small number of lawmakers representing Burma's ethnic parties and its pro-democracy opposition.

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