Suu Kyi ‘intends’ to run in Burma by-elections

Burma’s democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi plans to run in upcoming by-elections, her spokesperson said on Monday — days after her party decided to rejoin the official political arena.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) moved on Friday to end its boycott of the political process came on the same day the military-dominated government received a seal of approval from Washington for a string of nascent reforms.

“Daw Suu said she intends to take part in the election,” Nyan Win, spokesperson for the NLD, said. Daw is a term of respect in Burma.

Suu Kyi hinted that she would stand for office at a meeting of party delegates on Friday when they decided to re-register as a political party and contest elections after boycotting last year’s vote — Burma’s first in 20 years.

There are 48 parliamentary seats available but no polling dates have been set for by-elections.

Military rule
After speaking directly to Nobel laureate Suu Kyi for the first time, in a call from Air Force One, US President Barack Obama said Hillary Clinton would next month become the first US Secretary of State to visit Burma for 50 years.

Attending an Asian summit in Indonesia, Obama said Clinton’s December 1-2 trip was designed to stoke “flickers” of democratic reform in a country that for decades has been blighted by military rule and international isolation.

The NLD won a landslide victory in polls in 1990 but the then-ruling junta never allowed the party to take power. Suu Kyi, although a figurehead for the campaign, was under house arrest at the time.

Burma’s next election was not held until November last year and the NLD boycotted it — mainly because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members. Suu Kyi was again under house arrest.

Although the election was widely criticised as a sham, Burma’s military rulers gave way to a nominally civilian administration which released Suu Kyi from years in detention and has since made a surprising series of conciliatory gestures.

Global isolation
In developments Suu Kyi has described as “encouraging”, it has passed a law giving workers the right to strike, stopped work on an unpopular mega dam, released about 200 political prisoners and held direct talks with Suu Kyi.

As a reward for such moves, Burma last week won Southeast Asia’s approval to chair the regional bloc in 2014 — despite some concerns that such a diplomatic prize was premature.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday he would also visit Burma as soon as possible to encourage reforms.

Analysts say the return of the NLD would add to the legitimacy of the army-backed government, which is seeking to end its global isolation but would also increase the relevance of the popular but long-excluded Suu Kyi.

After spending 15 of the past 22 years in detention, the 66-year-old told her party on Friday that they should contest all the seats available in by-elections and had implied that she would run herself.

“Some people are worried that taking part could harm my dignity. Frankly, if you do politics, you should not be thinking about your dignity,” she said. — AFP

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