Fri 27 May 2005
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Myanmar’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) marked a bleak anniversary Friday 15 years after its never-recognized election victory, and called for the release of its “terrorized” leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Nobel laureate and her deputy Tin Oo have been under house arrest since a violent ambush in May 2003 suspected to be orchestrated by the junta. Their party’s regional offices have been closed, leaving the NLD with only its dilapidated Yangon headquarters operating under the regime’s ever-watchful eye.
The party won 392 of 485 contested seats in the 1990 elections, considered free and fair by the international community, but the junta has never allowed the winners to take office.
“We call for… the immediate and unconditional release from house arrest of U Tin Oo, vice chairman, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, general secretary of the NLD, who had been terrorized” by the junta, the NLD said in a statement.
Aung San Suu Kyi has spent more than eight years under detention since 1989. Her party last year accused the junta of reducing visits by her personal doctor and cutting her personal NLD security detail from 13 to six.
The party called for the release of all political prisoners and jailed members-elect of parliament, as well as the reopening of offices of all political parties.
It also said a timely dialogue between the NLD, ethnic minority groups and the ruling State Peace and Development Council was crucial if the country was to move towards democracy.
“Reinstating democratic rights and removing the anti-democratic procedures are essential” for a constructive dialogue to take place, the NLD said.
About 300 NLD members and supporters and a dozen foreign diplomats gathered at the party’s headquarters to mark the anniversary.
Last year at a similar gathering the NLD demanded the generals recognise the 1990 election result and said its refusal to do so had “shamed” the nation.
The junta has clamped down on the NLD and launched its own seven-step “road map” to democracy, which outlines what so far has been only a halting path to reforms demanded by the international community.
It has opened constitutional talks as a first step on its road map, but adjourned the latest session after six weeks and suspended the meetings possibly until the end of the year.
The talks were boycotted by the NLD, Myanmar’s largest opposition party, and derided by western countries as a farce. The result has been a political stalemate as the country’s economy crumbles.
“The NLD is like a soccer team without a soccer pitch to play on,” one political analyst told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Boycotting the constitutional talks at Myanmar’s National Convention has left the party with no meaningful dialogue with the government, he said.
A few days before this year’s anniversary, unusually conciliatory remarks appeared in the state press.
“Instead of arguing over who is right and who is wrong, we should find a solution by discussions over differences and working together on mutually accepted issues for the sake of national reconciliation,” read a commentary in the Mirror daily.
One analyst said the remarks were a rare overture by the military.
“NLD should regard this as an official overture and respond positively,” he said.
As with all things in Myanmar, the military’s intentions are hard to read.
The capital is still reeling from the unprecedented triple bombing on May 7, in which at least 19 people died.
The military faces pressure within the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to either meet its promises of democratic reform or pass over the rotating chairmanship of the grouping which Yangon is due to take next year.
On Thursday the United States urged Yangon to release Aung San Suu Kyi, who turns 60 next month, and other political detainees ahead of the second anniversary of the May 30 ambush against her and her supporters.
On May 30, 2003, suspected junta-affiliated forces went on a rampage, killing or injuring members of the NLD and pro-democracy supporters.