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Suu Kyi registers party, makes first parliament visit

world Updated: Dec 23, 2011 13:52 IST
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Myanmar's democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi registered her opposition party and visited the national parliament for the first time on Friday, as she prepares to enter the mainstream political arena.

The visit in the capital Naypyidaw included a meeting with lower house speaker Shwe Mann, number three in the previous ruling junta and still one of the most powerful men in Myanmar, who said he was "glad" to hold the talks.

"We have to work together as unity is strength," he told reporters.

Suu Kyi, 66, earlier went to the Union Election Commission office to register her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which must now wait at least a week to be officially endorsed.

"They have signed for their party registration already," a commission official told AFP, referring to Suu Kyi and other senior party members.

The NLD was given the green light from authorities this month to rejoin mainstream politics, paving the way for the Nobel laureate to run for a seat in the new parliament.

Upper house speaker Khin Aung Myint, who also met Suu Kyi on Friday, described her visit as "auspicious".

"We wanted this to happen a long time ago and we welcome her."

The NLD was stripped of its status as a legal political party by the junta last year after it chose to boycott a rare and controversial election, saying the rules were unfair.

Suu Kyi was released a few days after the November poll, having spent much of the past two decades in detention, and she is now planning to take part in by-elections expected early next year although no polling date has been set.

Since coming to power in March, the new military-backed government dominated by former generals has made a series of reformist moves in an apparent attempt to reach out to political opponents and the West.

These included releasing some of its many political prisoners, suspending construction of an unpopular mega-dam and holding peace talks with the country's main armed ethnic groups.

Suu Kyi expressed cautious hope earlier this month that democracy would come to Myanmar, as she welcomed Hillary Clinton to the home in Yangon city that was her prison for years during a landmark visit by the US Secretary of State.

"I am very confident that if we work together... there will be no turning back from the road to democracy," Suu Kyi said at the time.

The NLD won an election in 1990 by a landslide, while Suu Kyi remained under house arrest, but the ruling generals never allowed the party to take power.

Last week the party said it had chosen the image of a fighting peacock gazing at a white star as its new symbol, replacing its trademark bamboo hat, which was used by a breakaway group that participated in the 2010 election.

The NLD refused to participate in that vote -- the first in two decades -- mainly because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members.

An amendment to a law on political parties has since removed the contentious clause that said prisoners could not be party members, as well as a condition that all parties must agree to "preserve" a controversial 2008 constitution.