Tue, May 01, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD ends Myanmar parliament boycott

Reuters, YANGON, MYANMAR

Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party agreed yesterday to end a boycott of parliament and swear an oath to protect the constitution that it had resisted, party officials said, setting aside a dispute with the government.

Officials in her National League for Democracy (NLD) party said they could attend parliament from tomorrow.

“As a gesture of respect to the desires of the people and in consideration of the requests made by lawmakers from democratic parties and independent lawmakers, we have decided to attend the parliament,” Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters after a party meeting.

“We will go there as soon as possible and take the oath and attend the parliament,” she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi said she had to meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Yangon today, which is a holiday.

The NLD’s elected members of parliament, including Aung San Suu Kyi, would travel to the capital, Naypyitaw, for the session tomorrow, officials said.

The NLD boycotted general elections held in November 2010 to end almost 50 years of military rule, saying the poll was rigged in favor of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The USDP won overwhelmingly, but the new government under Burmese President Thein Sein quickly embarked on political and economic reforms and the president persuaded Aung San Suu Kyi to enter the political process.

The NLD took part in by-elections on April 1 and won all but one of the 44 seats it contested.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who won one of the seats, has said she wants to amend a 2008 constitution drawn up under the control of the military.

It gives the military wide-ranging powers, including the ability to appoint key Cabinet members, take control of the country in a state of emergency and occupy a quarter of the seats in parliament.

Apparently with a view to its aim to change the constitution, the NLD wanted to replace the words “safeguard the constitution” with “respect” it in the oath sworn by new members of parliament and delayed its entry into parliament.

However, the USDP rejected the NLD’s demand.

Aung San Suu Kyi did not say yesterday if the NLD would persist with its efforts to get the wording changed.

Ban welcomed Aung San Suu Kyi’s announcement during a trip to Naypyitaw.

“This is encouraging. I respect her decision. Leaders should work in the long-term interests of the nation,” he told reporters shortly after becoming the first foreign dignitary to address the fledgling parliament.

He said it would now be easier for Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi to work together.

“Both leaders should fully cooperate and discuss all matters. There are always difficulties that can be overcome in the interests of the nation,” he added.

In his speech to parliament, Ban urged Western powers to ease economic sanctions further to help Myanmar and even suggested the country could become a model for democracy after decades of repression and isolation under military rule.

Ban said he had no doubt that, under the year-old civilian government, Myanmar would catch up with its neighbors, but he warned of “perils and pitfalls” on a difficult road ahead.

“Today, I return to a new Myanmar, a Myanmar that is making history. The dramatic changes sweeping Myanmar have inspired the world,” Ban said. “More needs to be done. Today, I urge the international community to go further in easing or suspending trade restrictions and other sanctions.”

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