News / Asia

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi Attends Military Parade

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in yellow leaves after attending Burma’s 68th anniversary celebrations of Armed Forces Day, in Naypyidaw, March 27, 2013.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in yellow leaves after attending Burma’s 68th anniversary celebrations of Armed Forces Day, in Naypyidaw, March 27, 2013.
VOA News
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi stood side-by-side with the country's powerful army generals Wednesday during a military parade that served as a stunning display of the country's recent transformation.

The pro-democracy leader watched as the army that kept her in some form of detention for most of the past two decades demonstrated its military prowess at the event to mark Armed Forces Day. It was the first time she has attended the annual event in the capital, Naypyitaw.

Burma's top military commander, General Min Aung Hlaing, told the gathering the army will continue to play a central political role in order to move the country toward what he called a "modern democracy."

It was just two years ago that the army generals handed power to a nominally civilian government, ending more than four decades of direct military rule.

President Thein Sein, himself a former general, has since led a series of political and economic reforms that culminated in the election of Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament last year.

  • An honor guard marches during a parade to mark the 68th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Burma's capital Naypyitaw, March 27, 2013.
  • Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks with Deputy Minister for Border Affairs Major General Zaw Win during the 68th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, March 27, 2013.
  • Burma's army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing inspects troops during a parade to mark the 68th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, March 27, 2013.
  • An honor guard marches during a parade to mark the 68th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Burma's capital Naypyitaw, March 27, 2013.
  • Burma's army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing inspects troops during a parade to mark the 68th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, March 27, 2013.

Despite the reforms, seeing the Nobel laureate stand alongside the generals was shocking for many observers, including Htet Aung Kyaw, an ex-student activist who fled Burma in 1988.

"I was very, very surprised. For 25 years, we have never seen the opposition leader and the army appear in front of the Tatmadaw," Htet said. "But on the other hand, Aung San Suu Kyi is now a member of parliament, so she should be there."

Aung San Suu Kyi's attendance at the parade is her latest attempt at reaching out to the military. She angered some earlier this year when she acknowledged "fondness" of the army, which was established by her father - the revolutionary war hero Aung San.

Mark Farmaner, with the rights group Burma Campaign UK, says that kind of statement is difficult to accept for those in Burma's ethnic areas who have long been on the receiving end of human rights abuses committed by the army.

"The Burmese army has for decades been raping, killing, torturing, executing, forcing millions from their homes, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity," he said. "When [those in ethnic areas] hear her say these things, they're very upset and for them it seems like a very insensitive thing to say."

But Farmaner adds Aung San Suu Kyi realizes that the only way to achieve meaningful change is to get the support of the military. Top on the agenda, he says, is changing the country's constitution, which guarantees the army a quarter of the seats.

"She's in a very difficult position. But I think it would be good if she were more robust in acknowledging and talking about the fact that the Burmese army that she's reaching out to is still committing war crimes."

While the government has reached ceasefires with many of the country's armed ethnic groups, the situation remains tense in many border areas.

The insecurity was underscored last week when Burma's government declared a state of emergency in four central states following deadly Buddhist-Muslim violence.

Referring to the conflicts, General Min Aung Hlaing said Wednesday that a strong military and more modern weaponry were necessary to maintain national unity and protect independence.

"Our independence came from all Burmese people including every ethnic minority - therefore we have to protect it. The conflict that is going on now, the army never wants that to happen again. It is our duty to be responsible for all the people," he said.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid