Suu Kyi ends parliament boycott

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party agreed to end a boycott of parliament.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

YANGON: Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party agreed on Monday to end a boycott of parliament and swear an oath to protect the constitution that it had resisted, party officials said, setting aside a dispute with the government.

Officials in her National League for Democracy (NLD) party said they could attend parliament from Wednesday.

"As a gesture of respect to the desires of the people and in consideration of the requests made by lawmakers from democratic parties and independent lawmakers, we have decided to attend the parliament," Suu Kyi told reporters after a party meeting.

"We will go there as soon as possible and take the oath and attend the parliament," she said.

Suu Kyi said she had to meet U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Yangon on Tuesday, which is a holiday.

The NLD's elected members of parliament, including Suu Kyi, would travel to the capital, Naypyitaw, for the session on Wednesday, officials said.

The NLD boycotted general elections held in November 2010 to end almost 50 years of military rule saying the poll was rigged in favour of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The USDP won an overwhelming victory, but the new government under President Thein Sein quickly embarked on political and economic reforms, and the president persuaded Suu Kyi to enter the political process.

The NLD took part in by-elections on April 1 and won all but one of the 44 seats it contested.

Suu Kyi, who won one of the seats, has said she wants to amend a 2008 constitution drawn up under the control of the military.

It gives the military wide-ranging powers, including the ability to appoint key cabinet members, take control of the country in a state of emergency and occupy a quarter of the seats in parliament.

Apparently with a view to its aim to change the constitution, the NLD wanted to replace the words "safeguard the constitution" with "respect" it in the oath sworn by new members of parliament and delayed its entry into parliament.

But the ruling, army-backed party rejected the NLD's demand.

Suu Kyi did not say on Monday if the NLD would persist with its efforts to get the wording changed.

The European Union, United States and other countries have eased sanctions on Myanmar in response to the liberalisation but the dispute over the oath could have delayed a further thawing in relations, had it been allowed to fester.


U.N. chief Ban welcomed Suu Kyi's announcement during a trip to Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw.

"This is encouraging. I respect her decision. Leaders should work in the long-term interests of the nation," he told reporters shortly after becoming the first foreign dignitary to address the fledgling parliament.

He said it would now be easier for Thein Sein and Suu Kyi to work together.

"Both leaders should fully cooperate and discuss all matters. There are always difficulties that can be overcome in the interests of the nation," he added.

In his speech to parliament, Ban urged Western powers to ease economic sanctions further to help Myanmar and even suggested the country could become a model for democracy after decades of repression and isolation under military rule.

Ban said he had no doubt that, under the year-old civilian government, Myanmar would catch up with its Asian neighbours, but he warned of "perils and pitfalls" on a difficult road ahead.

"Today, I return to a new Myanmar, a Myanmar that is making history. The dramatic changes sweeping Myanmar have inspired the world," Ban said.

"More needs to be done. Today, I urge the international community to go further in easing or suspending trade restrictions and other sanctions."

Ban's visit is his first since July 2009, when Senior General Than Shwe ruled Myanmar at the head of a regime that brutally suppressed dissent.

But under Thein Sein, the junta's former fourth-in-command, the government has eased media censorship, legalised trade unions, freed more than 600 political prisoners and begun an economic overhaul. It has also struck ceasefire deals with ethnic minority rebel groups.

Ban signed an agreement on Monday offering U.N. technical support for Myanmar's first census since 1983 and he will travel to Shan state, one of the world's biggest opium-growing regions, to assess moves to eradicate opium poppy cultivation.