Opposition party kick starts reform

Dec 22, 2000 (DVB), Reform of the youth wing of Burma's main opposition party is underway following a warning from detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi that the party was being restricted by an ageing leadership.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) youth coordinator (2), Hla Oo, said that work had already begun on a Rangoon division NLD youth network. He added that the party's women's network was also being shaken up.

"Our objectives are to reinforce the party with youth working groups and install these across divisions and states," he said. "Township-level groups are to implement the youth working groups in villages."

Currently there are around 70 NLD youth networks across Burma. A rare meeting between Suu Kyi and three elderly party members exposed a potentially weak upper rung, which analysts then followed with a suggestion for new blood in the party.

At 64, Suu Kyi is the youngest of the 11-member central executive committee (CEC), while nine are in their 80s and 90s and most of them are said to be in bad health.

It will be the first time in the party's 21-year history that any significant reorganization has taken place. Development of the party has been severely hindered by Suu Kyi's spells under house arrest, which in total amount to 14 of the past 20 years.

"We aim to form youth working groups in townships in all 14 divisions in states across the country and to strengthen the youth network," Hla Oo said. "We have called for a meeting on 1 January next year to discuss how to work on forming these working groups and what kind of responsibilities to set them."

The head of the NLD's information wing, Khin Maung Swe, added that an office is being set up in the party's Rangoon headquarters for Suu Kyi, in spite of her continued house arrest.

"For a couple of years, we have been planning to build a room upstairs and the building owners have already approved it," he said. "We think it would be good to have a room up there."

The NLD, which Suu Kyi formed in 1988, the year she returned to Burma from Britain, is yet to announce whether it will participate in highly controversial elections next year.

Without a revision of the 2008 constitution, critics of the junta claim that the election will only serve to cement military rule in the country, which has been governed by a junta since 1962.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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