EU meets old and new opposition

An EU delegation in Burma yesterday met with both the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the National Democratic Force, two parties that could come to represent ‘old’ and ‘new’ Burma following elections later this year.

The National Democratic Force (NDF), formed from the ashes of the now-disbanded NLD, has been criticised by members of the former opposition party who claim that the group has betrayed the principles behind the party’s boycott of the elections.

But NDF leader Khin Maung Swe, a former NLD central executive committee member, reportedly told the EU delegation in Rangoon yesterday that “the way to approach national reconciliation is only through the parliament”, and that the party would look to open dialogue between opposition and the government.

The NLD on the other hand reiterated its anti-election stance and said that it had consistently urged its members to “make their individual decision…we did not tell them what to do or who to vote for”, said party spokesperson Nyan Win.

He appeared to refute reports that there were ill feelings between the two parties, despite Suu Kyi last month expressing her disappointment that the NDF would be contesting the polls, which critics claim are a sham designed to cement military rule; The NLD claim that participating could be seen as adding legitimacy to the widely derided elections.

Nyan Win said that the EU delegation supported the group and respected its decision not to enter the elections, while the NLD responded by saying that EU countries should try to pressure the Burmese government to bring about democratic reform.

The Burmese government has announced that international monitors would be barred from entering Burma during the elections period, rumoured to be sometime in October or November.

Khin Maung Swe called on the ministers to press the ruling junta to open its borders and allow observers in, while the NDF would look “to reach into the parliament and try to change the constitution which is not up to democratic standards”.

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