Suu Kyi to run in upcoming Myanmar by-election | world | Hindustan Times
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Suu Kyi to run in upcoming Myanmar by-election

world Updated: Nov 21, 2011 08:32 IST

Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will run in an upcoming by-election, a senior official in her party said on Monday, three days after her National League for Democracy ended its boycott of the country's political system.

It will be the first time the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has competed in an election since 1990, when her landslide electoral victory was voided by generals intent on maintaining power.

"Aung San Suu Kyi intends to stand for the by-election but it's a bit early to say from which constituency she will run," Nyan Win, a senior official in her party, said.

Suu Kyi, the daughter of late independence hero Aung San and a staunch opponent of the military dictators who ruled Myanmar until nominally handing power to a civilian parliament in March, spent 15 of the previous 21 years in detention before her release from house arrest a year ago.

On Friday, her National League for Democracy voted unanimously to register the party, which was officially dissolved last year by the then military regime.

Suu Kyi had previously not indicated whether she herself was interested in becoming a member of parliament, but her decision comes after Myanmar won a powerful endorsement on Friday when US President Barack Obama announced Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would visit the resource-rich country neighbouring China, citing "flickers of progress".

Clinton will be the highest-ranking American to visit the former British colony since a 1962 military coup. On her two-day visit early next month she plans to meet with Suu Kyi and has said credible elections are one condition for ending US sanctions, along the release of more political prisoners and peace with ethnic minorities.

The NLD, Myanmar's biggest opposition force, won the 1990 election but the country's military refused to cede power and for the following two decades suppressed the party's activities, putting many of its members in prison.

The party boycotted the next election, held on Nov. 7 last year, because of strict laws that prevented many of its members from taking part. As a result, the authorities officially dissolved it but it has continued to function and enjoys strong support from the public.

Myanmar recently amended a political party law removing a clause barring anyone convicted of a crime from joining a party or taking part in an election, paving the way for those who had served a prison term, including Suu Kyi, to contest the polls.

Strong influence
Suu Kyi commands considerable influence over the party and Ko Ko Hlaing, a senior advisor to President Thein Sein, said on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bali last week that the NLD's decision to re-register was a "significant step".

The presence of Suu Kyi in parliament would be another dramatic sign of openness that could give more legitimacy to the retired generals in charge of the country, who are eager to be accepted by the public at home and the international community.

For that same reason, Myanmar lobbied hard for a chance to chair the 10-member ASEAN in 2014, two years ahead of schedule.

Under the leadership of Thein Sein, the government has started a dialogue with Suu Kyi, moves welcomed by the West, which has imposed sanctions on the country because of its poor human rights record.

The government recently released more than 230 political prisoners, eased media censorship and sought guidance from international financial institutions to revive its economy.