Suu Kyi urges ‘unification’ with army

The detained leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party has said that civilians and soldiers in Burma should unite in order to develop the country.

Her statement was read out by NLD spokesperson Ohn Kyaing as the party on 27 March marked the 65th annual Armed Forces Day (or Resistance Day), which commemorates the start of the Burmese army’s resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945.

Around 1000 NLD members from across the country attended the event, along with foreign diplomats from countries such as Britain, Australia and the US.

“At this time, some people are saying things to create disunity among us and the Tatmadaw [army],” Suu Kyi was quoted as saying. “They are saying things that give the impression that the NLD doesn’t want the prosperity of the nation or the Tatmadaw.

“But in reality, we wish to see Burma and the Tatmadaw standing with dignity and honour. For this, I would like to request the people of Burma and the Tatmadawmen [army personnel] to be united and endeavour to develop a democratic nation.”

Burma has since 1962 been ruled by a military government that has aggressively expanded the size of the army, now thought to be up to 500,000-strong.

But the head of the junta, Than Shwe, said in a speech on Saturday in the new capital, Naypyidaw, that the country had been forced to assimilate the military and the government.

“The leaders of the Armed Forces turned from politicians into patriotic Tatmadawmen when armed struggle for independence was necessary, and they turned back into politicians…when the time came for political struggle,” he said.

He also warned parties looking to contest the elections this year to “show restraint at a time when the democratisation process has yet to reach maturity”.

“Great vigilance is necessary against unrest in the country, against election violence that jeopardizes rule of law, stability and tranquility and against circumstances leading to the disintegration of the Union.”

A letter sent on Saturday to Than Shwe by veteran opposition politicians requested that he revise the controversial 2008 constitution and strict election laws that bar Suu Kyi from running for office.

Additional reporting by Thurein Soe

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