By Zin Linn
Burma’s President Thein Sein has signed an amendment law on political parties in a noticeable effort to persuade National League for Democracy party led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to reregister as a party recognizing the new political structure.
President Thein Sein signed the amendments to the Political Party Registration Law on Friday as senior US diplomats and a special UN envoy were ending their visits pushing his government to drive forward with democratic reforms.
Burma’s state-run TV and newspaper publicized on Friday that President Thein Sein has signed a law that amends three key areas of the Political Party Registration Law. Both houses of the Burmese Parliament had earlier endorsed the amendments.
In the previous law the wording said that all political parties must “protect” the State’s Constitution. In the amendment law the word “safeguard” was changed to “respect and abide” the Constitution.
According to the new law, previous two clauses were also changed. One clause said that serving prisoners are restricted from being a member of a political party and another clause said that a political party needs to contest in three parliamentary seats at least in an election.
Many analysts believe that the aim of amending the law is to pave a way for the National League for Democracy reregistering as a legal party. If so, the NLD may take part in the upcoming by-elections that would be the first electoral contest of its public reputation within a two-decade time.
Thein Sein government seems to take advantage of bringing Suu Kyi’s party back into the current parliamentary structure which would make the government healthier authenticity at home and overseas.
At the same time, Burma is expected to release at least 600 political prisoners in the coming days, government and opposition sources said, as part of an amnesty program by President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government. A top government official, who asked to remain anonymous told Radio Free Asia (Burmese Service) in an interview Thursday that the release would likely come next week.
“I expect the release date will be Nov. 10, which is the important Buddhist Full Moon holiday,” he said.
“Student leaders Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) leader Kun Htun Oo are on the list. The list of those to be released has been submitted to the National Defense and Security Council by the president,” the source said.
Another official, also speaking anonymously, said he believed the release would “benefit national reconciliation.”
The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) claims that several hundred political prisoners are yet to be freed. Suu Kyi and Labor Minister Aung Kyi have met several times to talk about the political prisoner situation.
Tin Oo, vice chairman of the NLD, told RFA that the two sides had been making considerable steps forward in resolving their differences, indicating that releases were expected the coming week.
The government visible moves – amending the party registration law, planning to free more political prisoners and some soft stances on media freedom – are believed to be a step ahead toward change. But, there are many unconvinced dissident groups inside and outside of the country.
According to those groups, Burmese government eagerly wants lifting of Western sanctions, financial assistance from monetary institutions and supporting of ASEAN Chairmanship in 2014. So, to fulfill its needs in a short period, there is no other way except to persuade Suu Kyi joining on its boat.
Sources close to the NLD also predicted that Suu Kyi and some of her party members are expected to take part in the upcoming by-election with full strength.
The NLD spokesman Nyan Win said the party was likely to get re-registered under an amended party registration law that removed clauses the NLD had pointed out as inappropriate and undemocratic.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia (Burmese Service), Nyan Win said that he considers she may stand in a by-election if the law was amended. “I personally want her to do so,” he added.
Even though, if she would decide to stand in the by-election after the law was amended, she may need to have the consent of the NLD Central Executive Committee. The next by-elections seem to be held belatedly this year.
According to some analysts, the government’s reforms, including a rare meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein and the recent release of over 200 political prisoners, are intended for shedding Burma’s friendless situation and giving it some consistency with the international community.
However, there are many democracy-supporters who dare not believe the Thein Sein government’s current steps forward as real change. Because, the civil war in Kachin State has been going on under full-scaled offensives and government’s soldiers are still abusing basic human rights widely. Besides, there are more than 20,000 war-refugees and IDPs along Sino-Burma border without having any humanitarian assistance due to brutal attacks by government’s soldiers.