'Enthusiastic' Suu Kyi calls for party reform

Dec 17, 2009 (DVB), The detained leader of Burma's largest political party has called for it to be reorganised for the first time in the party's 21-year history, following rare talks with three senior party members.

The demand was heralded as "really necessary" by senior National League for Democracy (NLD) member, Win Tin, who has been a lynchpin for the pro-democracy movement in Burma since the party's formation in September 1988.

The winds of change that Aung San Suu Kyi has ushered in came after she earlier requested, via a letter to the ruling junta, a meeting with party elders. She also requested a cross-party meeting and talks with the junta's senior general, Than Shwe.

The talks were also hailed by the US, which has been urging for dialogue between the junta and opposition parties.

"We hope this is a step towards a meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and the entire central executive committee of the National League for Democracy," US state department spokesperson, Ian Kelly said.

Win Tin said that it signifies both a fresh approach from the NLD, and a sign that "if the junta agrees to her meeting with the party elders, she may be able to meet with Than Shwe. It can result in dialogue".

The top echelons of the NLD are all in their senior years. At the meeting on Monday, at which Suu Kyi proposed the reform, were 92-year-old U Aung Shwe, 85-year-old U Lwin and U Lun Tin, who is 89.

"They are more than 80 years old. The NLD already has the idea of expanding and reforming by giving young people places so that future activities could be carried out," said NLD spokesperson Khin Maung Shwe.

U Win Tin continued that "the junta should do the same thing to bring innovation to Burmese politics. If the junta has the same spirit of renovation, of course we will have new ideas and new thinking to work for the country".

With the 2010 elections looming, and as yet little indication of the future of Burmese politics, Win Tin said that regardless of who takes power, "they must have some new ideas of how to tackle the problems of Burma and problems of Burmese society".

He conceded that many will be troubled by Suu Kyi's conciliatory tone, but the positivity displayed by the party on the eve of elections will encourage hope both in Burma and abroad that dialogue and change are possible.

"She is quite willing to work with the junta and some people are quite surprised; they don't like the idea of co-operation," he said.

What has changed recently in the minds of western governments has been the line that should be taken with the errant generals at the top of Burma's political pile, one of engagement instead of isolation.

Athough the fresh approach from the international community, coupled with developments within the NLD, have been met with enthusiasm, Khin Maung Shwe said however that "when welcoming this, we have to do it with great caution."

Whilst many of the senior NLD members will move aside to allow fresh blood into the party leadership, Win Tin was in no doubt about the ultimate leader of the party.

"She is a wonderful girl, really. She is always very enthusiastic; she is working all the time, even alone in her house she is working very hard, more than 10 to 15 hours a day. That letter is proof," he said.

"She is retiring the older generation, she is not just paying respects," he said, adding that "she has got the ideas and she is well enough in health".

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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