Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Myanmar pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, center, and elected lawmakers of her National League for Democracy party swear during a regular session of Myanmar Lower House at parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Wednesday, May 2, 2012. Suu Kyi was sworn in to Myanmar's military-backed parliament Wednesday, taking public office for the first time since launching her struggle against authoritarian rule nearly a quarter century ago. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
Myanmar begins new era as Suu Kyi joins parliament
Suu Kyi » The decades-long journey from prisoner to lawmaker seems to be over.
First Published May 02 2012 12:36 pm • Last Updated May 02 2012 12:38 pm

Naypyitaw, Myanmar • Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as a lawmaker Wednesday, capping a tenacious, decades-long journey from political prisoner to parliamentarian that will enable Myanmar’s main opposition party to take its struggle for democratic rule inside the country’s army-backed government for the first time.

The swearing-in ceremony in the capital, Naypyitaw, cements a fragile detente between Suu Kyi’s movement and the administration of President Thein Sein, which has engineered a series of sweeping reforms since taking power from a military junta last year.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

But some analysts see her entry into the legislative branch as a gamble which will achieve little beyond legitimizing a regime that needs her support to end years of isolation from the West and get lingering sanctions lifted.

Mobbed by reporters after Wednesday’s ceremony, Suu Kyi said she would not give up the struggle she has led since 1988.

"We would like our parliament to be in line with genuine democratic values. It’s not because we want to remove anybody," she said in apparent reference to the military, whose unelected appointees control 25 percent of the assembly. "We just want to make the kind of improvements that will make our national assembly a truly democratic one."

That will not be easy. Suu Kyi, 66, will have almost no power in the ruling-party dominated parliament since her party will occupy only the few dozen seats it won in an April 1 by-election. But she will have an official voice in government for the first time, and the chance — however faint — to challenge and influence public policy from within.

Her National League for Democracy party’s legislative debut comes 24 years after it was prevented from taking power after a landslide electoral victory in 1990. Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time, and the army annulled the poll result, staying in power until last year.

When the latest session began last week, the NLD initially refused to join because of a dispute over the oath of office, sparking a political crisis that irked supporters at home and abroad who were eager for the party to finally enter the assembly.

The party wanted wording in the oath changed from "safeguard" to "respect" the constitution, which they have vowed to amend because it enshrines military power.

In a sudden turnaround, Suu Kyi backed down Monday, averting a possible stalemate. But the party’s failure to push through even that small change underscores the immense challenges ahead in a nation still dominated by the military.


story continues below
story continues below

On Wednesday, Suu Kyi and several dozen of her NLD brethren recited the oath, despite their strong opposition to it.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the occasion "an important moment" for Myanmar’s future and praised Thein Sein’s administration for taking "strides toward democracy and national reconciliation."

"I encourage all political parties, civil society representatives and ethnic minority leaders to work together to address challenges and seize new opportunities for a more democratic, free, peaceful, and prosperous future," Clinton said.

Thein Sein’s government has been widely praised for instituting reforms over the last several months, including releasing hundreds of political prisoners, signing cease-fires with rebels, easing media censorship and holding the April 1 by-election that allowed Suu Kyi’s party to enter parliament.

But more than half a million refugees remain abroad, hundreds of political prisoners are still behind bars and fierce fighting continues with ethnic Kachin insurgents in the north. This week, Washington-based watchdog Freedom House said Myanmar — also known as Burma — was still "not free," and the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked the country the seventh most restricted in world.

The legislature itself was installed after a 2010 vote that the NLD boycotted and the international community decried as a sham. Now, as a parliamentary minority, the Suu Kyi-led opposition will have little power to change what it wants to change most — the constitution.

"We have to now work within the parliament as well as outside the parliament as we have been doing" all along, Suu Kyi said.

Maung Zarni, a Myanmar exile who is a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, said Suu Kyi’s ascent is "neither a game-changer nor a sign that Burma has reached the tipping point of democratic transition."

"Quite the contrary, it marks the most important victory (yet) for the regime’s strategic leaders," he said.

Suu Kyi’s rise to public office marks a major reversal of fortune for a woman who became one of the world’s most prominent prisoners of conscience, held under house arrest for much of the last two decades. When the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner was finally released in late 2010, few could have imagined she would make the leap from democracy advocate to elected official in less than 18 months.

Soe Aung, a spokesman for the Thailand-based Forum for Democracy in Burma, said little would change for ordinary people, but they "have much hope in her and her party."

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.