Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other newly elected members of her party plan to boycott parliament next week over a row about the constitutional oath, a party spokesman said yesterday.
It is the first sign of serious discord between Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and the reformist regime since April 1 by-elections that gave the former political prisoner her first-ever seat in parliament.
The NLD’s announcement came after the authorities rejected its appeal to change the wording of the swearing-in oath from “safeguard” to “respect” the constitution, which was drawn up by the country’s former military rulers.
The NLD will write to the presidential office to ask the authorities to reconsider, but a resolution to the row is unlikely in time for the opening of parliament on Monday, party spokesman Nyan Win said.
“As today is the 20th, I don’t see any possibility to go in time,” he said at the party headquarters.
Burmese President Thein Sein is currently on a visit to Japan.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent much of the past two decades locked up by the former junta, has been invited along with the other parliamentarians to take up her seat in the lower house on Monday after her party’s decisive by-election win.
Observers say the regime needs Aung San Suu Kyi in parliament to bolster the legitimacy of its political system and spur an easing of Western sanctions.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has said one of her priorities will be to push for an amendment of the 2008 constitution, under which one quarter of the seats in parliament are reserved for unelected military officials.
The NLD secured 43 of the 44 seats it contested in this month’s elections, becoming the main opposition force in a national parliament that remains dominated by the military and its political allies.
The vote was largely praised as a step toward democracy by the international community, and Western nations are beginning to lift or suspend sanctions on Myanmar to encourage reforms.