Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s new Registration of Political Parties law automatically excludes leading members of the National League for Democracy, including Aung San Suu Kyi from their own party.
The new law, heralded today by Burma’s state run media, bars anyone convicted by a court and serving a jail term of being a member of a registered party. Any party that wants to take part in the upcoming election must register itself with the newly created electoral commission, whose job is to ensure parties are following the new election “rules”.
After years of struggling against the increasingly belligerent military regime, the NLD attempted to reinvigorate the party earlier this month by creating a Central Committee of 100 key party members. Eleven members of the Central Committee are presently serving time in Burmese prisons.
They include Win Mya Mya, chairperson of the NLD’s women leader of Mandalay Division and other party activists who were arrested following their participation in the 2007 monk led popular uprising. Kyaw Khaing, an eighty seven year old elected member of the annulled 1990 parliament is presently serving a two year jail term. The other NLD central committee members are serving lengthy prison sentences of more than ten years.
“We feel that the election law is aimed at our party. It’s because we just announced the list of CC members that includes those who are presently in jail. If we have to get the NLD registered with the new election commission, we have to expel these members”, said NLD leader Ohn Kyaing.
In order to comply with the new law the NLD would have to expel their party leader Aung San Suu Kyi because she is serving 18 months of house arrest. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was convicted last year in what many observers believe was a show trial. She was charged with breaking the conditions of her house arrest after a US citizen John Yettaw broke into her house to see the world’s most famous political prisoner.
“As for the new law, we have to expel Aung San Suu Kyi from the party. If not, the party will be de-registered and it cannot contest in the election. Those who are convicted by a court cannot enter into the elections”, NLD party spokesperson Nyan Win told Mizzima.
Under the 2008 constitution which the Burmese government claims will guide a transition to democratic rule; Aung San Suu Kyi is already barred from running for office because she was married to a foreigner. Dubbed the Michael Aris clause by its critics, the constitution bans anyone who is entitled to the citizenship or residency benefits of a foreign country from running for office. Her husband Aris died in 1999 after the Burmese regime refused the terminally ill scholar a visa meet to meet his wife in Rangoon one last time.
The election commission, though yet to be formed, will comprise a minimum five persons who are appointed by the military government. According to the party registration law however, a party that wants to enter into the election has only 60 days from March 8 to apply for registration although the commission itself is not yet formed. A party will also have to have a minimum 1000 members to be considered a national party.
At least 40 democracy activists and student leaders who took part in the 1988 nation-wide democracy uprising and also joined the 2007 monks-led protests are presently in jail. According to human rights groups, there are more than 2100 political prisoners in Burma and at least 400 of them are NLD members.