Myanmar Opposition Boycotts Parliament Over Oath

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Aung San Suu Ky, Pro-Democracy Leader in Myanmar
Aung San Suu Ky, Pro-Democracy Leader in Myanmar

Newly elected members of Myanmar's pro-democracy opposition party may boycott the parliament to which they just won entry.

The boycott is an attempt by the National League for Democracy, led by Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, to change the wording of the oath of office taken by newly elected parliamentarians to safeguard the constitution to respect the constitution.

We will try to sort this out so that the present situation will not become a political stalemate, National League for Democracy (NLD) party spokesman Nyan Win told Reuters.

But it is still not certain whether or not the NLD elected candidates will attend the parliament on April 23.

Even though the battle is over a single word, it's an important one for Suu Kyi because the oath was written by Myanmar's military junta, which kept a totalitarian grip on the country for five decades. The NLD has officially appealed to the lower and upper houses of parliament, and will write to the country's civilian president, Thein Sein, but it is unlikely that the oath will be amended before Monday, when the newly elected party members are supposed to start work.

The current oath and the current constitution date to 2008, two years before the junta made way for a civilian government. The constitution currently guarantees that a quarter of parliamentary seats are reserved for military leaders, a point which Suu Kyi is determined to change, the Telegraph reported.

Myanmar has long been the subject of Western sanctions, but the U.S., UK and the European Union said that economic restrictions could be suspended or even lifted if the country's leaders are committed to political reform. This not only means changing aspects of the constitution, but also the release of hundreds of political prisoners and an increase in the freedoms given to activists and journalists.

Suu Kyi was a political prisoner herself and spent 15 of the past 20 years under house arrest. She is one of 43 NLD members who won seats in the parliament during special by-elections earlier this month.

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