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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More