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

Video VOA ‘Town Hall’ Shines Light on Ebola Crisis

Experts call for greater speed in identification and treatment of deadly disease More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Funding Program Helps Extremely Poor in Ghana

Broad objective for Ghana's social cash transfer program is to lessen the impact of poverty on the most vulnerable people, elderly, orphans, those with disabilities More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid