Millennium Post

Steering Myanmar towards democracy

It is a matter of gratification that Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar has once again been chosen as the party leader by the National League for Democracy. She was unanimously selected as the chairwoman on Saturday when the 862-member congress elected a 120-person central committee that chose the executive committee. While these are internal democratic moves that are welcome in a party that fought hard to bring back democracy in Myanmar, it nevertheless suffers now from an ageing leadership. As is well known, Suu Kyi has played an admirable role in sustaining the fight for democracy in a country ruled by the military junta, having won the national elections in 1990, and being placed thereafter under house arrest for many years. Her subsequent struggle in the years when the military exercised its dominance has inspired many. Though her party did not win in the 2010 elections, which many consider to have been fraudulent, she continues to excite the hope that true democracy will return to Myanmar. In April 2012, she was elected to the lower house of the Myanmar Parliament, representing the constituency of Kawhmu and her party also won 43 of the 45 seats vacant in the lower house. The endorsement of her position as the party leader of the NLD now once again clearly underlines her importance for democracy in Myanmar. Though at the helm of a party that has fought for democracy, she has not been without troubles in recent times. The party has not been a cohesive organisation. It has been struggling with factionalism and poor leadership and this weekend Congress was part of Suu Kyi’s efforts to revitalise it. At the weekend Congress, Suu Kyi vowed to infuse new blood into the party, which is still recovering from more than two decades of persecution under military rule.
Myanmar is at a crossroads. Since the liberalisation by the military junta and the elections of 2010, the government has embarked on a series of reforms toward liberal democracy and mixed economy and as well as reconciliation with those politically hostile to it. These reforms have included the release of pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi from house arrest, the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, general amnesty for more than 200 political prisoners, institution of new labour laws that allow labour unions and strikes, the relaxation of press censorship and regulations of currency practices. The 2015 elections therefore are important for this country and may truly release the pent-up democratic forces within it. Suu Kyi will be there now to help organise the resurgence of democracy.
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