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By-elections ‘will not be free and fair’: Suu Kyi

Burma’s looming by-elections cannot be considered genuinely free and fair, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said today amid ongoing reports of foul play against her party.

She told reporters today during a press conference at her house in Rangoon that there had been “many cases of intimidation” since campaigning began; including an incident this week in Taungoo in which a candidate was the target of a catapult attack, although no one was injured.

Another National League for Democracy (NLD) candidate was threatened with disqualification due to her father being a foreign national.

“We are saddened by the fact that the government and the Union Election Commission haven’t been as firm as they could have been,” Suu Kyi said.

Today’s event was her first public appearance since being taken ill last week. After bouts of vomiting and weakness, thought to be due to exhaustion, her doctor advised her to rest. She said she would not be doing anymore campaigning, but would spend Saturday evening in Kawhmu township, where she is targeting one of 44 seats being contested by the party.

The 66-year-old described her condition as “delicate”, although she struck a confident pose as she answered taxing questions on her decision to run for parliament on Sunday.

The move has divided opinion, even within the senior ranks of her party, and Suu Kyi has had to defend against accusations that she is compromising her long-fought battle for democracy in Burma in order to join a government seen by many as a plain-clothed military.

The election fight however is “not just about winning a seat”, but also to galvanise political awareness among Burmese. That element of the campaign has been “extremely successful”, she said, particularly given the number of youths who have turned up to rallies in support of her.

The NLD has in the past been accused of placing too much emphasis on the party’s elders whilst sidelining young voices. In recent years, however, its youth wing has blossomed, and some prominent younger activists, such as musician and former political prisoner Zayar Thaw, have joined the ranks.

Anegga, a member of the famed hip hop group Acid, which was co-founded by Zayar Thaw, thinks the party has a promising future. Also supporting the NLD’s maiden entrance to parliament, he told DVB that one person in particular was boosting the party’s credentials among the youth.

“Lawyer Pho Phyu is very active, and is one of hundreds of young people now joining the political field,” Anegga said. Pho Phyu knows the dangers of challenging the regime in Burma, having spent several spells in prison for his work in defending aggrieved farmers.

Likewise has Zayar Thaw, who has rapidly become a key figure in the party and whose appeal to young voters is enormous. He is spearheading the NLD’s attempts to lure more youth in by fusing popular culture and politics, evidenced by a concert tonight in downtown Rangoon in which Acid will encourage the audience to vote for another popular NLD candidate, Phyu Phyu Tin.

Suu Kyi also said her many weeks of frenetic canvassing had met with success in Burma’s ethnic regions. In the past she has struggled to cast herself as a legitimate political figurehead among minority groups, but she said the response she received during rallies in Kachin state, Shan state and Mon state had been “very positive”.


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