Myanmar’s pro-democratic leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi made a campaign speech for the very first time on national television yesterday. The Nobel peace laureate is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which will be contesting in the by-elections to be held on April 1. Although a part of her speech was censored for purportedly defaming the military, the event is the first time Ms. Suu Kyi has been allowed to use the state media. Previously, Ms. Suu Kyi was held under house arrest by the military junta for approximately 15 years and her party was not able to contest fairly in elections.
In her campaign video, Ms. Suu Kyi called for “the building [of] a genuine Union that is based on equality, regional autonomy and the right to decide independently”. She also pointed out that “unless people get human rights with freedom from fear, a democratic system cannot be established and developed”.
In addition, Ms. Suu Kyi criticized the government for controlling the judicial system and its reliance on oppressive laws. In one example given by Ms. Suu Kyi to support her claim that the current Constitution is not line with democratic principles, she said that “the citizens know that the Parliament comprises 25 percent of parliamentary representative who are not elected”. Going on, she consented that “the military must play a role for the development of the country” despite the military junta’s suppressive regime on Myanmar for many years.
The appearance of Ms. Suu Kyi on television is a sign that the civilian government under President Thein Sein is making further progress in its series of political reforms, which began end last year. Since then, the Burmese government has signed ceasefires with armed ethnic rebel groups, released political prisoners, and relaxed restrictions on press freedom, allowing Ms. Suu Kyi to contest in the elections as a candidate. Many countries, especially those in the West, are keeping a close eye on Myanmar’s reform. Holding a free and fair election is one of the requirements the West has specifically asked Myanmar to fulfill before it will consider the lifting of its sanctions.
Report: Suu Kyi: Constitution does not conform with ‘democratic norms’ [CNN, 14 March 2012]
Report: Aung San Suu Kyi campaign video leaked online [Telegraph UK, 13 March 2012]
Report: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi calls for ‘freedom from fear’ [Channel News Asia, 14 March 2012]