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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid