Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi sworn in as MP; EU opening embassy-level office; new negotiators for Kachin

Updated On: May 01, 2012

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has taken her seat in parliament, after agreeing to compromise and take the swearing-in oath. Ms. Suu Kyi also met visiting United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week. Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced the EU is setting up an embassy-level office in Yangon, following the EU's suspension of sanctions last week.

Meanwhile, reports say President Thein Sein has ordered a shakeup of Myanmar's peace negotiating teams to settle armed rebellions by ethnic militias.

NLD Compromises on Oath

Ms. Suu Kyi and 42 members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) previously refused to take part in the swearing-in ceremony for Members of Parliament due to the wording of the oath. They had objected to swear to "safeguard" the constitution drafted by the old military government and wanted to change the wording to "respect".
But they agreed to compromise and take the oath.

"The reason we accept (the oath), firstly is the desire of the people. Our voters voted for us because they want to see us in parliament," Ms Suu Kyi said.

UN Secretary-General in Myanmar, Addresses Parliament

On Tuesday, Ms. Suu Kyi met United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for the first time. Mr. Ban welcomed Ms. Suu Kyi's decision on the oath.

"A real leader demonstrates flexibility for the greater cause of the people...I'm sure she'll play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian," he said.

Mr. Ban added that Ms. Suu Kyi had accepted an invitation to visit the United Nations headquarters in New York. Ms. Suu Kyi has also previously been invited to visit the United States by the US government.

Mr. Ban also met with Myanmar President Thein Sein during his visit, and became the first world leader to address Myanmar's parliament on Monday.

He called for a further easing of sanctions on the country, saying he was encouraged by recent reform efforts, but noted the process of change was fragile and needed nurturing.

On Sunday, Mr. Ban also paid his respects at the tomb of the late Myanmar diplomat U Thant, who was UN Secretary-General from 1961 to 1971.

Report: Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi to take parliamentary oath [BBC, 1 May 2012]

EU Foreign Policy Chief announces EU embassy-level office in Myanmar

The UN Secretary-General's visit to Myanmar is the latest in a series of high-level visits by foreign leaders and diplomats, following the country's reforms.

But Mr. Ban said the recent rush of VIP visitors should be translated into concrete action.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also visited Myanmar last week. On Saturday, she announced that the EU is opening an embassy-level office in the country.

The office in Yangon will be the EU's first diplomatic representation in Myanmar. It will offer investment, expertise, and oversee aid programmes.

Last week, the EU suspended non-military sanctions against Myanmar. Ms. Ashton said the suspension of sanctions is intended to reward the government for what Ms. Ashton said were "remarkable" political and economic concessions.

Report: EU's Ashton pledges support for Myanmar [Al Jazeera, 28 April 2012]

New High-Level Negotiators for Talks with Ethnic Militias

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Myanmar President Thein Sein has ordered an overhaul of the government's peace negotiating teams in a bid to settle armed rebellions with ethnic rebel militias, following a failure to end a stubborn conflict in the strategic Kachin State.

Fighting between troops and militias has displaced more than 50,000 people since June. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is one of the most powerful rebel groups in Myanmar. Kachin State is crucial to Myanmar's economic interests, rich in natural resources and home to hydropower plants supplying electricity to energy-hungry China.

Citing sources close to the peace process, Reuters said the new negotiators would include one of the country's two Vice Presidents, along with senior offers from the army and parliamentary lawmakers.

On Saturday, three local government officials were killed and three missing following a KIA attack on an administrative office in Kachin's Sadon area. On Sunday, a mine placed on a rail track exploded in Kachin State, wounding two people and derailing eight coaches.

Report: Myanmar president orders shakeup for peace talks [Reuters, 29 April 2012]

Related Article