Burmese Pro-Democracy Party Asks Government to Discuss Warning

Posted June 29th, 2011 at 4:15 pm (UTC-5)
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The Burmese political movement headed by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is asking for a meeting with authorities to discuss a government order directing the organization to halt all political activities.

The request came Wednesday, just hours after the Home Affairs Ministry warned the Nobel laureate in a letter that her National League for Democracy party – forced by Burma's former military junta to dissolve last year – was breaking the law by maintaining party offices.

A commentary in the government-controlled New Light of Myanmar newspaper warned Aung San Suu Kyi that her upcoming political tour of the country could spark riots and chaos. The editorial stopped short of telling her to stay home.

In Washington, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the United States is concerned for Aung San Suu Kyi's safety and said it is the responsibility of Burmese authorities to keep her secure. He called on Burma's government to ensure the pro-democracy leader is able to travel, express her views and fully participate in political activities.

U.S. Senator John McCain, who toured Burma last month, called the government's warning “a step backwards.” He told VOA's Burmese service he hoped the government would reconsider its stance and that Aung San Suu Kyi would be allowed to travel freely in her homeland. He also said the latest developments have “obviously increased” his concern for the activist's personal safety.

In 2003, during a political tour of upper Burma, about 70 of Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters were killed in an attack widely seen as an assassination attempt by a pro-government mob. The NLD leader escaped, but was later captured by government security forces and sentenced to seven years of house arrest.

The NLD was forced to dissolve as a political party last year when it boycotted national elections because Aung San Suu Kyi – then under house arrest – was not allowed to participate. The country's Supreme Court later rejected the party's legal challenge to the dissolution.

Aung San Suu Kyi's upcoming political tour, announced last month, is widely seen as a test of the 66-year-old activist's popularity, following elections in November that saw a nominally civilian government come to power after more than two decades of military rule. It is also seen as a high-profile test of the new government's commitment to promised democratic reforms – a point Senator McCain again raised in his comments to VOA.

The NLD won the last election it contested 20 years ago with Aung San Suu Kyi at its head, but the military government never allowed it to take power. Aung San Suu Kyi spent most of the years since then under house arrest.