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 VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid