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NLD and Allies Discuss Party Registration

 Irrawaddy

In this photo taken on Oct. 22, 2011, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, shakes hands with supporters after she visits a class of traditional hand weaving course organized by women members of her National League for Democracy party in Rangoon. (Photo: AP)

A key decision that could affect Burma's political future is pending as Aung San Suu Kyi and the leadership of the National League for Democracy (NLD) are scheduled to meet with their pro-democracy allies on Friday.

Aye Thar Aung, a leader of the Arakan League for Democracy, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the meeting is significant for both the NLD and its ethnic allies since they will discuss the issue of political party registration, an option that has been availed to them since Burma's Parliament passed a bill last week amending the Political Parties Registration law.

Ahead of the meeting, Suu Kyi met government liaison minister Aung Kyi in Rangoon on Sunday for 55 minutes, the 13th meeting between the two and the fourth since President Thein Sein took the helm in March.

According to a report in The New Light of Myanmar on Monday, Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi issued a joint-statement following the meeting saying that Sunday's discussion focused on free trade, commerce, monetary circulation, ensuring peace with armed ethnic groups, and the general conditions surrounding the granting of amnesty.

Nay Zin Latt, a political advisor to Thein Sein, said Sunday's meeting between Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi showed that discussions were now focusing on wider issues and include economic and financial issues.

Suu Kyi said on Sunday that her party will not discuss the issue of party registration until the law was finally approved. The amendment was passed in the Lower House last week and sent to the president for signing.

“The NLD’s registration depends on the law,” Suu Kyi was quoted in The New Light of Myanmar as saying. “The registration is the issue we can tell [sic] only after the law is approved and enacted. When the law is approved, we will hold a meeting. According to the rules and regulations of our party, we can make [a] decision after the meeting.”

Some 50 seats are up for grabs in by-elections scheduled for November. Observers say the new law would allow the NLD to compete.

Under the amended party registration law, a political party would only have to contest three constituencies in by-elections or general elections in order to be recognized as a legitimate party.

The bill was one of three amendments passed without opposition by both Houses of Parliament recently.

Asked about the amendment to the party registration law, Nay Zin Latt said the government's approach has been aimed at getting the NLD to participate in the political process by registering. He said there could be benefits for both sides—the government and the opposition.

“The amendment of the law means cooperation. I see this as a good step,” he said.

Suu Kyi talked for the first time with President Thein Sein at the presidential palace in the capital of Naypyidaw on Aug. 19 when the pro-democracy leader traveled there for a state-run economic workshop.

Hopes were high that part of the process would include the release of political prisoners, including key leaders such as Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and other 88 Generation Student leaders, as well as ethnic leaders such as Hkun Htun Oo of the Shan National League for Democracy.

However, there were only about 200 political prisoners among 6,359 prisoners released on Oct. 12 on what President Thein Sein called “humanitarian grounds.”

“However, more political prisoners could be released—including Ko Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and U Hkun Htun Oo,” said Aye Thar Aung. “We heard they are on the list, although I can’t say the exact date.”

Another key amendment in the party registration law is that the clause, “Anyone convicted by a court of law is prohibited from joining a political party,” will be removed.

If so, many dissidents—particularly the 28 members of the 88 Generation Students group who remain behind bars serving up to 65 and a half years—could land the opportunity to become party members or even leaders if the amendment is authorized by Thein Sein.

“As far as I know, my colleagues who remain in prison support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s current political stance, including her dialogue with government officials,” said Thein Than Tun, a member of the 88 Generation Students group who was released from Buthidaung Prison in western Burma on Oct 12. “They are all ready to work with her.”

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