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

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs