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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
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.

All About America

AppleAndroid