New opposition says Suu Kyi ‘is still leader’

Four members of the now-disbanded opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party will form a new party and register for upcoming elections, the group’s advisor has said.

Khin Maung Swe, a Central Executive Committee member and spokesperson for the NLD, said that he would be joined in the party by other senior NLD members who had long called for the party to compete in elections.

The NLD’s 20-year lifespan as a political party officially ended yesterday following its decision to boycott the polls, citing restrictive elections laws that banned party leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running.

Nyan Win, the NLD’s longtime spokesman, urged the founders of the new party to refuse to participate in the polls. “They should formally obey the unanimous decision of the NLD [to boycott the elections]”, he told AFP. “Whether they obey the decision or not is their choice. But I’m not preventing them.”

The new party, temporarily named the National Democratic Force (NDF), will “continue with the politics of the NLD and its unfinished duty and unfulfilled vows made to the people,” Khin Maung Swe said.

Other party members include Dr Than Nyein, Thein Nyunt and Sein Hla Oo, all from the NLD’s Central Executive Committee, while around 20 people are expected to form the party’s upper echelons.

He added that the move is not intended to be an attack on Suu Kyi or the NLD. “For those who form the new party, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is still a leader to them. She always will be.”

The party is expecting to use its potential leverage in a post-election Burma to change a small number of controversial laws, such as the Emergency Provisions Act.

“If we have a sufficient democratic force in the parliament, we will be able to amend these laws that oppress the people and only benefit a handful of individuals,” Khin Maung Swe.

“The Basic Constitution can only be revised when 75 percent of parliamentary members agree to it but the parliament is to begin considering if 20 percent initiate a call [for the revision]. So we will take the chance instead of sitting and doing nothing.”

The fate of the NLD, which formed in the wake of the 1988 uprising and became Burma’s main opposition party, is unclear; the group has been legally abolished, but members say it will continue to work as a social organisation.

Aung San Suu Kyi is due to be released from her current spell under house arrest in November this year, one month after the rumoured date of the elections.

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