News / Asia

Burma’s Opposition Party Re-Enters Politics

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi talks to members of the National League for Democracy at their headquarters in Rangoon, November 18, 2011.
Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi talks to members of the National League for Democracy at their headquarters in Rangoon, November 18, 2011.

Burma’s opposition National League for Democracy has announced it will re-enter politics in upcoming elections following reform moves by the military-backed government.

Nobel Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the party, is expected to run for office after more than two decades of being side-lined by authorities.

The unanimous decision was made by the party’s central executive committee in response to changes in election and party registration laws and government reform efforts.

The return to politics poses no direct challenge to the military-backed government as there are fewer than 50 of more than 500 parliamentary seats available.

But it would thrust Aung San Suu Kyi back to the political spotlight following nearly two decades of house arrest and side-lining tactics by the government.

Speaking in Rangoon to supporters and the media Friday, she said the time was right for them to re-enter politics.

People, she said, are watching, reviewing, and judging what the NLD can do while they have this very tiny chance. And she pointed out this is why they need to decide to work with an open mind for what people need and what the country needs.

2010 watershed year

The NLD boycotted nationwide elections in 2010, the first in twenty years, because of rules that required they participate and expel Aung San Suu Kyi or be banned from politics.

Critics called the election a sham designed to cement military rule in the guise of democracy.

A military-backed party was declared the winner and Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest just days later.

In recent months even Burma’s harshest critics like the United States have been surprised at reforms the government says are aimed at restoring democracy.

Signs of change

After coming to power in March, President Thein Sein relaxed tight controls on the media, allowed labor unions, stopped an unpopular China-backed hydropower dam, held direct talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, and released more than 200 political prisoners.

Rights groups, however, point out there are still hundreds of political prisoners behind bars and that reforms can quickly be reversed.

Dave Mathieson, a Burma researcher with Human Rights Watch, says although the NLD is reentering politics, its political struggles are far from over.

“I don’t think we should be underestimating the challenges the NLD is going to face given that they have been subjected to two decades of pretty harsh treatment on the part of the government and security services," Mathieson said.

Skeptics say the government’s reforms are meager and merely aimed at getting international legitimacy.

Others, including Burma’s neighbors, are more hopeful. Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations this week elected Burma as chairman for its 2014 meetings, citing its progress on democratic reforms.

Clinton trip

On Friday, President Obama announced U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would next month visit Burma to meet with officials and Aung San Suu Kyi.

At the summit in Bali Friday, Surin Pitsuwan, the ASEAN Secretary General, said the U.S. president and ASEAN are both hoping that Burma’s political progress will continue.

“I expect some reciprocal movement," he said. "I think the U.S. reaction is certainly a reciprocal posture thanks to the developments inside [Burma]. And I am sure there will be other partners who will be looking at ways how they can encourage the process further.”

Despite the new political outreach to Burma’s government, the United States and the European Union both have economic sanctions against Burma for its rights abuses.

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

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.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
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 Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
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.

VOA Blogs

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