Suu Kyi's party to be abolished
Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's party, for two decades the symbol of resistance against the ruling junta, is to be dissolved at midnight Thursday under laws laid down ahead of elections.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) refused to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register as a political party -- a move that would have forced it to expel its own leader -- and boycotted the vote scheduled for later this year.
At the party's ramshackle headquarters in Myanmar's former capital Yangon, the "fighting peacock" flag was still flying but party workers were packing up files and mulling new plans to focus on social and development work.
"We have decided not to take down our party signboard and flags as Daw Suu has asked," said prominent NLD member Phyu Phyu Thin, using a respectful form of address for the Nobel peace laureate.
"Although we have no legal headquarters, we will continue our movement. Our people have sacrificed their lives... many of our party members and activists are still in prison," she said.
Along with Suu Kyi's lakeside home, where she has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years, the shabby wooden headquarters has been the focus of efforts to end nearly half a century of military rule.
The NLD was founded in 1988 after a popular uprising against the military junta that left thousands dead. Two years later the party won elections in a landslide but the results were never recognised by the regime.
The junta's new election laws, which forced the NLD into the difficult boycott decision and also officially nullified the 1990 poll results, have been roundly condemned by the international community.
Suu Kyi filed a lawsuit last week to try to overturn the laws but the Supreme Court turned down the bid, paving the way for her party to be automatically abolished at midnight.
"According to the law, the NLD will not be a registered party tomorrow," Myanmar police chief Khin Yi told AFP Thursday. NLD spokesman Nyan Win said they were no ceremonies scheduled to mark the last hours of the party.
"We have no plans for today. We have no events scheduled at our party headquarters," he told AFP.
He declined to elaborate on the emotions within the party leadership, but analysts say that there has been friction between the older, hardline members and younger more moderate figures who opposed the boycott decision.
Khin Maung Swe, another senior party member, downplayed speculation that he will form a new political party out of the ashes of the NLD. The process for registration of new parties will officially begin from Friday.
"I love this party. But I have to respect the majority's decision. Today will be the last day for us. It's a very sorrowful time as we have to conclude our party this way," he told AFP.
"The NLD hasn't been able to fulfil its promise which was made to the people in 1990. So I will support those who want to continue to serve the people."
Aung Naing Oo, a Myanmar analyst and former student leader in the 1988 uprising, said the beleaguered pro-democracy movement was now moving into uncharted territory.
"It's a great loss for Burma. I don't see any organisation that can fill the vacuum created by the NLD's departure," he said, using the country's former name.
"Even if the moderates form a political party of their own they will be without their main key asset -- Aung San Suu Kyi."
"And because of the lack of an agreement to reorganise, the moderates and hardliners are likely to undermine each other."
The NLD leadership, many of whom are in their 80s and 90s, have been criticised for lacking a strategic vision, and some question whether their absolutist stance against the regime is the best way forward.
Aung Naing Oo said a new line-up of pro-democracy campaigners under a fresh banner "may have a better chance of working with the generals, compared to the NLD with all its heavy baggage".