Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) will not attend the swearing in ceremony when Burma’s Parliament opens on Monday because of a dispute over the language in the oath.
The NLD, which won 43 out of 45 available seats in Parliamentary by-elections on April 1, rejects the wording in the oath of office, which requires the members of Parliament to “safeguard” the constitution that was drawn up by the country’s former junta.
The opposition party argues the word should be changed from “safeguard” to “respect” and sent a letter to the office of Burma’s reformist President Thein Sein on the issue
As of Sunday, the NLD said that it has not yet received an answer from the president.
Suu Kyi denied that the act is a boycott. “We are not boycotting, but we are just waiting for the right time to go,” Suu Kyi said according to AFP.
Amending the constitution created by the ruling generals in 2008, is one Suu Kyi’s first priorities in office. The constitution is widely criticized for enshrining the supremacy of the military and ensuring impunity for the army’s long record of human rights abuses.
Under the constitution, which was endorsed in a sham referendum, the military is allocated 25 percent of all seats, amounting to veto power over any process that requires more than 75 percent approval. The commander in chief can remove the president under the current law.
While the NLD’s 43 seats, less than 6 percent of the Parliament’s 664 seats are not enough to impose legislative changes, many feel it is positive that the opposition will be in Parliament at all.
“A small window of hope is about to open by having Daw Suu and other NLD members in the Parliament, that she might be able to persuade the MPs from the military and majority party (USDP) to support any proposed bills and overturn existing unjust laws,” Tim Aye-Hardy, director of the New York-based Burma Global Action Network, told The Epoch Times before the election.
The by-elections, just the second free elections in the last 20 years, were watched closely by the West as a benchmark to consider easing sanctions. Since then, the United States, Australia, and the EU have removed certain restrictions.
Last Saturday it was reported that European diplomats reached a preliminary agreement to suspend most European Union sanctions against Burma, with only the arms embargo to be kept.
Also Saturday, Japan said it would forgive $3.7 billion of Burma’s debt and resume aid as a way to support the country’s democratic and economic reforms.
Burma was run by the military since they took over in a coup in 1962. Last year, a military-backed civilian government under President Thein Sein enacted a series of democratic reforms, including greater press freedom and the release of many political prisoners.