News / Asia

Burma's NLD Faces Challenges at Historic Congress

Congress delegates prepare to pose for photographs as they arrive to attend the National League for Democracy party's (NLD) congress in Rangoon, March 8, 2013.
Congress delegates prepare to pose for photographs as they arrive to attend the National League for Democracy party's (NLD) congress in Rangoon, March 8, 2013.
VOA News
Burma's once-outlawed National League for Democracy is holding its first party congress since the opposition group was founded 25 years ago.

Delegates in Rangoon will draw up a policy framework and elect a central committee during the three-day meeting that began Friday. Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is also expected to be reappointed as head of the party.

The Nobel laureate helped the NLD to a strong showing in historic April by-elections, which saw the party win 43 of the 45 contested seats. But the NLD is setting its sights on 2015, when it hopes to take power during national elections.

But the party faces several challenges as it attempts to fashion itself into a viable political alternative to the military, which still dominates parliament and other government institutions.

One of the most pressing issues is electing younger leaders to replace the party's elderly founding members, many of whom are in their 80s or 90s and in poor health.

NLD spokesperson Nyan Win told VOA last month the party intends to address the youth problem during this week's congress, vowing to elect more young people, as well as women, to leadership positions.

Some say the NLD has also become too reliant on the charismatic Aung San Suu Kyi, whose immense popularity played a major part in helping it sweep the April polls.

"It's no secret that the party needs to be re-vamped. There has to be a new generation of leaders, there has to be a better structure, more meetings, it has to be more institutionalized," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of Bangkok's Institute of Security and International Studies. "It has to be less personalized around Aung San Suu Kyi."

Pongsudhirak says a key part of the NLD's reorganization should be formulating core policy proposals that help move the country forward - something he says he has not seen enough of from the current leadership.

Another issue to be resolved is what role Aung San Suu Kyi will play following the 2015 elections. She has expressed interest in running for president, though the constitution currently bars her from doing so because she was previously married to a Briton.

A presidential run would be a stunning turn of events for the 67-year-old, who spent much of the past two decades under some form of detention because of her activism before being released in 2010.

But Pongsudhirak says she may actually be more effective in guiding Burma's transition if she does not run for president.

"If she opts out of the presidential election she could do so much more. But, if she stays in the election equation, she'll have to make more and more compromises," he added.

Many human rights activists have criticized Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD for not speaking out loudly enough about ongoing human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in several border regions.

Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, tells VOA that the NLD risks sacrificing its "moral authority" for the benefits of what he calls "short-term politics."

"We expected that they would be much more vocal on human rights issues," he said. "That they would be pressing harder on the issues of ending human rights violations in, for instance, the ethnic states at the hands of the Burma army. But so far they've largely been silent on many of these issues."

Robertson acknowledges that the NLD is now in the difficult position of having to retain popularity in order to win votes. But he says they should not sacrifice core principles in order to do so.

Others are more optimistic. Jim Della-Giacoma of the International Crisis Group tells VOA that the upcoming elections offer a real chance for change that was once unthinkable in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar.

"The country is changing in many ways that were not predicted," he said. "It's hard to look into the future in 2015, but we all hope it will continue to move in a more democratic direction, and that this will, sooner, rather than later, produce dividends for ordinary citizens of Myanmar."

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid