By Shwe Yinn Mar Oo (AFP) – Apr 20, 2012
YANGON — Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party said Friday it planned to boycott Myanmar's parliament next week in a row that threatens to overshadow the activist's landmark election to public office.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who spent much of the past two decades locked up by the former junta, had been set to make her debut in parliament on Monday after her party's decisive win in by-elections earlier this month.
But her party's newly elected members are refusing to take the swearing-in oath that requires them to uphold the constitution, which was drawn up by the country's former military rulers, a party spokesman said Friday.
It is the first sign of serious discord between Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) and the reformist regime since April 1 by-elections that gave the former political prisoner her first-ever seat in parliament.
The authorities have rejected the NLD's appeal to change the wording of the swearing-in oath from "safeguard" to "respect" the constitution.
The party will write to the presidential office to ask the authorities to reconsider, but a resolution to the row is unlikely in time for the opening of parliament on Monday, said party spokesman Nyan Win.
"As today is the 20th, I don't see any possibility to go in time," he told reporters at the party headquarters.
President Thein Sein is on a visit to Japan, where he is set to hold talks with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is reportedly set to announce that Japan will forgive Myanmar's $3.7 billion debt and resume financial assistance.
"The NLD wants to take it to a higher level such as the president, but he is on a trip," said a government official who did not want to be named.
During the five day trip, which began on Friday, Thein Sein is to meet business leaders and visit power plants, as well as attend a summit of Japan and five Mekong Delta nations -- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
Myanmar, which languished for decades under a repressive junta, has announced a series of reforms since a controversial 2010 election brought a civilian government to power -- albeit one with close links to the military.
The regime has freed hundreds of political prisoners, welcomed Suu Kyi's party back into mainstream politics and signed tentative peace deals with a number of rebel groups, although fighting still rages in the far north.
Observers say the regime needs Suu Kyi in parliament to bolster the legitimacy of its political system and spur an easing of Western sanctions.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has said one of her priorities will be to push for an amendment of the 2008 constitution, under which one quarter of the seats in parliament are reserved for unelected military officials.
The NLD secured 43 of the 44 seats it contested in this month's elections, becoming the main opposition force in a national parliament that remains dominated by the military and its political allies.
The vote was largely praised as a step towards democracy by the international community, and Western nations are beginning to lift or suspend sanctions on Myanmar to encourage reforms.
European Union diplomats told AFP Thursday that the 27-nation bloc had reached an agreement in principle to suspend all sanctions against the country formerly known as Burma, except for an arms embargo, for a year.
The announcement came days after Suu Kyi and British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a joint call for the suspension of the measures after landmark talks in Yangon.
On Wednesday the NLD said Suu Kyi planned to visit Britain and Norway as part of her first trip outside Myanmar in 24 years.
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