Woman included in NLD expansion

Jan 15, 2010 (DVB), Another woman will join the Burmese opposition party's central committee after a major and unprecedented expansion was yesterday put into motion.

Nine people in total have been added to the existing 11-member central executive committee (CEC) of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party. One of these, Dr May Win Myint, is now the only female in the committee other than the detained leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The news was met with muted enthusiasm by the secretary general of the Thailand-based Burma Women's Union (BWU), Tin Tin Nyo, which has in the past called for a greater gender balance within the party.

"Only after 20 years has one more woman been included in the CEC," she said. "It's a positive step, but it's taken so many years to get [here]."

"I would suggest however that the NLD consider more women at this decision-making level. There are 20 people, and only two of these are women. The other woman, Aung San Suu Kyi, is under house arrest, so it's really only one woman [who is active]."

Another prominent addition to the CEC is party spokesperson and lawyer for Suu Kyi, Nyan Win, who acted as the international media's first port of call during the Suu Kyi trial last year.

Another NLD spokesperson, Khin Maung Swe, said that the majority of the CEC, those who were neither detained or in poor health, will hold a plenary meeting next Monday to assign duties to the new members.

He added that the expansion was being undertaken to prepare for "the upcoming political situation in the country", but declined to say whether this was a reference to the looming elections, which the NLD is yet to announce whether it will participate in.

Some lower-ranking NLD members complained last week however that the decision-making process to select the new members had been done without full cooperation from the various party wings.

Khin Maung Swe reacted by saying that the party had needed to act swiftly on the requests of regional members. The expansion was first framed as a call for fresh blood in the party following a rare meeting between Suu Kyi and two ageing CEC members, chairperson Aung Shwe and secretary U Lwin.

"Due to our respect to [regional members], we carried out the expansion quickly. If we have to collect opinions from the ground level, we wouldn't be able to do it this quickly," he said. "One day, when we can convene everyone, we will do this as a fully democratic procedure."

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw and Francis Wade

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