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Burma’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party seized the occasion of the country’s 68th Independence Day on Monday to demand the continuation of a shift away from military rule.
A statement released by last year’s election winners praised the “patriotic heroes” who reclaimed Burma from British colonial domination and credited the Burmese army for its leadership in the historical fight “against a century of colonialism and fascism, with armed resistance as well as negotiating with their imperial rulers”.
Aung San San Suu Kyi, who has said she will become the country’s defacto leader after an NLD-majority government comes to power in April, is the daughter of Aung San— the man credited as the founder of Burma’s modern armed forces.
That military has dominated Burmese politics in the near seven decades since independence. Suu Kyi has previously said that she holds the institution in high regard, however on Monday called on the country to “turn the page” away from its legacy of military rule, as the party prepares to take the reins of government.
Suu Kyi was present alongside party patron and former military officer Tin Oo at the NLD’s headquarters in Rangoon on Monday, where celebrations were held.
Meanwhile, President Thein Sein also praised the spirit of those who secured Burma’s independence from British colonialism in 1948. He called upon the current generation to work together for ethnic unity – a reference to the current political dialogue phase of the long-running peace process.
Burma’s peace process may prove to be Thein Sein’s greatest legacy. The outgoing president secured the signatures of 15 of the country’s largest ethnic armed groups on a ceasefire dubbed ‘nationwide’ and ratified by parliament late last year. Fighting has since continued in Burma’s northeast however, after rebel armies including the Kachin Independence Army and the Shan State Army-North refused to sign the pre-drafted document.
“The concerted efforts of the national groups, the people and the armed forces will be necessary to continue on the correct path to democratisation,” Thein Sein said in his address.
Suu Kyi today vowed to conclude Thein Sein’s peace project as her party’s first priority in office, according to the Reuters news agency.
“The peace process is the first thing the new government will work on. We will try for the all inclusive ceasefire agreement,” Suu Kyi said in at Monday’s Independence Day celebrations.
“We can do nothing without peace in our country,” Reuters reported Suu Kyi as saying.
With no control over the policy or the actions of the Burmese army, ending Burma’s six-decade war will be a mammoth task for Suu Kyi.
As Burma’s political heavyweights marked the occasion, the families of jail inmates waited in hope of an amnesty outside Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison. To mark Independence Day in 2014, President Thein Sein released more than 13,000 prisoners across Burma, according to the Worldwide Movement for Human Rights. As yet, the government has not indicated that there will be an Independence Day amnesty.