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Myanmar clears path for Suu Kyi's return to politics

world Updated: Nov 05, 2011 15:28 IST
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Myanmar's president has approved changes to a law on political parties, paving the way for democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party to re-register, state media said on Saturday.

The revisions to the political party registration law appear to be the latest effort by the military-dominated regime to reach out to opponents, amid tentative signs of change in the repressive state.

A key amendment endorsed by President Thein Sein on Friday removed the condition that all parties must agree to "preserve" the country's 2008 constitution, the state-run Myanmar Ahlin newspaper said.

The wording has now been changed to "respect and obey", it said, a small difference in nuance but one that would allow Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party to criticise or suggest changes to the constitution.

The revised law also removed a contentious clause that said prisoners could not be party members.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win said the party welcomed the changes but he refused to be drawn on whether it meant it would re-register and contest a by-election expected around the end of the year.

"We like the amended law as it amended the facts that should be amended," he told AFP.

"We will discuss and negotiate what to do and how to continue on Monday when the office opens."

The NLD boycotted Myanmar's historic elections last year, largely because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members -- including leader Suu Kyi who was still under house arrest at the time.

As a result it was delisted as a political party by the regime.

Myanmar's new nominally civilian government said in September it was ready to work with Suu Kyi and her party if they officially re-entered the political arena.

In response, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, freed from detention last November after seven years of house arrest, said she would discuss the issue of re-registering with senior party members based on political developments.

The amendments to the party registration law came hot on the heels of high-profile visits to Myanmar this week by senior officials from the United Nations and the United States, who said they were encouraged by nascent reforms in the country.

A recent prisoner amnesty by the new government, however, failed to free most key dissidents, disappointing those who had hoped the country would release all its roughly 2,000 political detainees.