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Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the media today in a frenetic press conference at the National League for Democracy’s headquarters in Rangoon to mark a year since her release from house arrest. In her opening remarks she said that the rule of law was the most crucial challenge for democratisation in Burma, but closed with comments signalling that the party will put the disregarded 1990 election win behind them as a they forge a new path.
The 66-year-old described the year since her release as “eventful, energising and encouraging,” before adding that the “door to democracy in the country is not open until we have the rule of law”, which is the most ”important” issue. Her party needs to have “faith and [be] daring” as they move forward.
“We are looking for the opening to the road democracy. We have not come to the end of our road,” she said, before adding that “there is never an end to political endeavour.”
The Nobel laureate refused to answer questions on the party’s registration, but did confirm that the party would vote on the issue on 18 November. The NLD is expected to register as a political party after registration and electoral laws were amended in favour of their ostensible role in parliament. She hinted that the NLD had requested such amendments to the government.
She continued that without the rule of law, “we can’t guarantee that there won’t be political prisoners in the future”.
Touching on the NLD’s figure for political prisoners, which she described as a “controversial” issue, Suu Kyi claimed that there are only 525 jailed activists. Groups such as the exiled Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPPB) asserts a higher figure of around 1,700.
The government had their “own list,” Suu Kyi said, despite them not publicly acknowledging the existence of political prisoners. The government claims instead that only “common criminals” are behind bars. Party spokesperson Nyan Win stated that the NLD believed that around 100 of their members were behind bars.
During the year since her release, Suu Kyi had attempted to build a “network of democracy” with a variety of social services. She added that some 18 free schools for the most deprived had been developed, which she believed were well received by parents and pupils alike.
The Nobel laureate said that she and her party remained “very concerned” about the situation in the ethnic areas, particularly in Kachin state. She said her offer to mediate peace talks between ethnic armed groups and the government still stood, as it has since her release.
When asked by DVB, Suu Kyi refused to be drawn on issue of whether she supported a commission of inquiry into such matters, instead delegating responsibility to the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights, Tomas Ojea Quintana. “It is the responsibility of Mr Quintana, and we believe he should be given every assistance necessary to carry out his duties. If he believes the commission of inquiry is necessary then we should back him up.”
In the past the lawyer has voiced support for the inquiry, but more recently has welcomed legislative reforms in Naypyidaw. Suu Kyi added however that any commission of inquiry was not a “tribunal”; rather it would be a “fact-finding mission”.
Answering questions from Chinese journalists, she said that the two neighbours should look for “harmony”, as they had done for time immemorial, but asked China to consider the interests of Burma’s people.
Marking something of a break with the past, Suu Kyi stated that the party should also accept that the 1990 election results were “history” – this after the speaker of the National Parliament, Khin Aung Myint, said that he “recognised the result”. This had been one of the party’s demands in their 2009 Shwegondaing proclamation, which set out the conditions for their re-entry into parliamentary politics.