Western envoys visit NLD headquarters

Australian and the United States’ diplomats yesterday paid a so-called ‘fact finding’ visit to the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s main office in Rangoon.

The party on Monday announced that it would not register for controversial elections in Burma later this year, meaning that under recently announced laws it will soon be abolished.

Senior NLD member Win Tin said that the diplomats, whose frequent visits to NLD offices are closely monitored by the Burmese government, enquired about Suu Kyi’s role in the decision and about the party’s tenuous future now that it will no longer be able to officially operate within mainstream Burmese politics.

Prior to Monday Suu Kyi had voiced her objection to registering but asserted that the party must make up its own mind. Win Tin said that her remarks only “made our decisions more firm”.

“But we shouldn’t forget about the people’s role; the people will not accept the points in the election laws which ban Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners [from participating]. These are the reasons for our decision.”

There were reportedly no objections to the election boycott from within the NLD’s Central Committee, who made the final decision, despite a small number of party members having previously urged the NLD to compete.

The international community has on the whole been supportive of the NLD’s decision, despite mixed reactions from inside Burma. The US has repeatedly condemned the elections as a sham while Australia’s foreign minister said this week that the polls cannot now be considered free and fair.

As to the future of Burma’s main opposition party, the prospects are worrying – Suu Kyi remains under house arrest and the majority of the influential senior members are elderly. But, Win Tin said, there is scope for a new emphasis on greater engagement with Burmese people, something that the party has been restricted from doing in its 22-year history.

“We explained [to the diplomats] that we will be working on social welfare programmes for the people as well as programmes to provide aid and protect people from suffering,” he said. “Holding on to these policies, we will make our stand. Our party won’t just sit and watch.”

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