ISSN 2330-717X

Burma: Suu Kyi To Join Parliament Amid Historic Visit By UN Chief


(RFE/RL) — Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has dropped her refusal to take her seat in the newly elected parliament, and has agreed to swear a controversial oath to protect the country’s constitution.

Suu Kyi and other newly elected members of her National League for Democracy party declined to appear at a swearing-in ceremony on April 23, saying they objected to the wording of the oath.

The oath calls on lawmakers to “safeguard” the 2008 constitution. Suu Kyi had asked for the wording in the oath to be changed to a pledge to “respect” the constitution.

The constitution protects the political supremacy of the military — guaranteeing the army 25 percent of the seats in the parliament of the Southeast Asian nation, which was ruled for the past five decades by an authoritarian military regime.

Speaking to reporters on April 30, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former political prisoner said she relented and would swear the oath in order to fulfill the wishes of supporters to see her in parliament.

“As a gesture of respect, we will follow a policy of compromise with different groups, “Suu Kyi said, “so I’d like to announce that we will proceed as quickly as possible to become legal members of parliament by swearing the oath.”

Ban On Historic Visit

The April 1 parliamentary vote was the first election that Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy had participated in since 1990.

The party won the 1990 vote by a landslide, but saw the results annulled by the army and Suu Kyi detained and held under house arrest. She spent a total of 15 years in captivity before her most recent release in 2010.

Suu Kyi’s decision to proceed with her parliamentary oath comes as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits Myanmar for his first time since a reformist government took power last year in a move that ended military rule.

Ban has held talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein in the capital, Naypyidaw, and is due to meet on May 1 with Suu Kyi in Yangon. Ban, who last visited the country in 2009, was prohibited by the military leadership from meeting with Suu Kyi during that visit.

Ban is using his current visit to urge Western nations to drop remaining sanctions against Myanmar as a show of support.

In the first speech by a foreign dignitary in the new parliament, Ban on April 30 also pressed the government to cooperate on continued reforms:

“We know that Myanmar can meet the challenges of reconciliation, democracy, and development but it will take your full determination and your common leadership and partnership,” Ban said.

The UN has agreed to assist the country in carrying out its first population and housing census in more than three decades.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, is also now on a visit to Myanmar.

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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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