News / Asia

Burma's Freed Democracy Leader Seeking Role in Politics

Activists from the Free Burma Coalition holding masks depicting Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi hold a rally in front of the Burmese embassy in Manila, 17 Nov 2010
Activists from the Free Burma Coalition holding masks depicting Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi hold a rally in front of the Burmese embassy in Manila, 17 Nov 2010

Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is seeking a return to politics just days after her release from house arrest.  But regional political analysts say the Nobel Prize winner's ability to bring change may be limited, in part because she could be imprisoned again if she pushes the military government too hard.

Free less than a week, Aung San Suu Kyi is mounting a legal challenge to restore her National League for Democracy.

The NLD was disbanded as a political party for refusing to follow strict rules and register in Burma's controversial election.  It now operates as a social charity and is not supposed to be involved in activities deemed political.

But Aung San Suu Ky has made clear she plans to be politically active after being released from seven years in detention.

The 65-year-old democracy icon says she wants to meet with pro-democracy groups that contested the elections, but now complain of vote fraud and intimidation.

But she also has offered to hold reconciliation talks with the government that took away her freedom.

In an interview with VOA's Burmese Service, the Nobel Peace Prize winner acknowledged that dialogue with the military government would not come easy.

"I think the most important thing is the will to find a solution.  If both sides are really willing to find a solution we will find one," she said. "We can't do it if just one side wants a solution and the other is not keen on it.  So, what we have to do is try to persuade the military regime that national reconciliation is in everybody's interest, including theirs."

Limits to popularity

Thousands of people have flocked to see Aung San Suu Kyi, making clear that she remains tremendously popular.

William Case is director of the Southeast Asia Research Center at the City University of Hong Kong.  He says it is not clear how well she can translate popularity into effective change.

"She can inspire some hope, she can keep popular longing, sentiments, for democratic change alive.  But, in terms of actually bringing out any meaningful democratization of politics, that is probably quite limited," he said.

As an incentive for dialogue, she is considering supporting an end to economic sanctions.

For years she has urged Western governments to restrict trade to punish the government for rights abuses.

Critics maintain sanctions hurt ordinary people and allow countries less concerned about rights, such as China, to dominate investment and trade.

Carl Thayer is a professor specializing in Southeast Asia at the Australian Defense Force Academy. He says the offer could give Aung San Suu Kyi a chance to meet with government officials but her influence on Burma's politics is limited.

"If she helps removing sanctions - that's a positive thing.  But, once they're removed, she's not needed in that respect.  She can't play a role in the executive legislature so she can be bypassed," said Thayer. "If she does attempt to mobilize people, in what form would that take - the next elections or mass demonstrations or petitions?  What action could they do to a military-dominated legislature peacefully?"

Hope for gradual change

Aung San Suu Kyi was released a week after Burma held an election that was widely condemned as unfair and designed to keep the military in power.

The government says the election was part of a plan to return to civilian rule, but with the military retaining a significant role to prevent ethnic militias from splitting the country.

A military-backed party claims it won the election by a landslide.

Some Burma analysts say, flawed as it was, the election may offer the best hope for gradual change.

But Thayer says time is running out for Aung San Suu Kyi to get involved.

"And, hopefully she has enough intelligence to learn how to navigate at the moment.  And it has to be gradualism. It's got to be slow," he said. "And, probably joining with regional countries and movements to try to take what appears to be a slight opening and trying to push it wider."

Push to end abuses

Rights groups say Burma has one of the world's most oppressive governments.  There are over 2,000 political prisoners in its jails and the military is accused of systematic forced labor, torture, rape, and murder.

Aung San Suu Kyi says she will continue to push for an end to abuses.

But Case in Hong Hong says if she is too vocally critical of the government she can be easily silenced.

"And, if it does appear that she's growing more effective and begins to present any kind of challenge to that country's leadership, then, as everyone is saying, she can simply be returned to house arrest," he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi says the opposition has no intention of clashing with the government and that the NLD hopes the military understands that clashing is not the solution to Burma's problems.

The NLD won Burma's previous election in 1990 but the military ignored the result and confined Aung San Suu Kyi in her house for most of the past two decades.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs