Suu Kyi enters politics again

Myanmar icon to run in polls; Clinton to visit long-isolated nation

After speaking directly to Nobel laureate Suu Kyi for the first time, in a call from Air Force One, US President Barack Obama said Hillary Clinton would next month become the first secretary of state to visit Myanmar for 50 years.

Attending an Asian summit in Indonesia, Obama said Clinton’s December 1-2 trip was designed to stoke “flickers” of democratic reform in a country that for decades has been blighted by military rule and international isolation.

In rare elections a year ago, Myanmar’s military rulers gave way to a nominally civilian administration which released Suu Kyi from years of house arrest and has since made a surprising series of conciliatory gestures.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) said it would re-register as a political party and contest coming by-elections after boycotting last year’s poll — paving the way for the 66-year-old democracy heroine to run for office.

She told her party on Friday that they should rejoin the mainstream political process and contest all 48 seats available in upcoming by-elections.

“Why? The NLD has not worked as a political party for a long time so we need to practise as a political party again,” she said to party delegates in Yangon, before their official decision to re-register was announced.

The NLD won a landslide victory in polls in 1990 but the then-ruling junta never allowed the party to take power. Suu Kyi, although a figurehead for the campaign, was under house arrest throughout.

Myanmar’s next election was not held until November last year, and the NLD boycotted it — mainly because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members. Suu Kyi was again under house arrest.

Courageous move

EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton welcomed the “courageous” return of the NLD to the political arena as another sign of “great hope” in the military-dominated nation.

“This is a courageous and welcome decision. Fair and transparent elections leading to a wider representation of the people in the Burmese parliament will be a key step towards making national reconciliation a reality,” she said.

After spending 15 of the past 22 years in detention, Suu Kyi hinted to her party on Friday that she would stand for office herself in the by-elections. No polling dates have yet been set.

“If I think I should take part in the election, I will. Some people are worried that taking part could harm my dignity. Frankly, if you do politics, you should not be thinking about your dignity,” she said.

“I stand for the re-registration of the NLD party. I would like to work effectively towards amending the constitution. So we have to do what we need to do.”

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