Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi: This Will Be Telling Year

Posted January 5th, 2012 at 4:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is urging supporters not to lose hope.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party has faced some criticism for its decision to participate in April's elections. But the long-time democracy advocate tells the Associated Press there have been changes for the better even though the country's slow march to democracy is not “unstoppable.”

During Thursday's interview, the Nobel laureate warned she remains concerned about how much support there is within the military for continued reforms. She also predicted this would be a year in which “we will be able to find out exactly what progress has been made towards genuine democratization.”

Most of the recent concern has surrounded the Burmese government's failure to release many political prisoners as part of several mass amnesties.

Aung San Suu Kyi's comments came the same day she met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Hague's visit is the first by a British foreign secretary to Burma in more than 50 years. Earlier, he met with Burmese President Thein Sein and welcomed the government's pledge to pursue additional reforms.

Hague's visit follows that of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in November pledged U.S. support for Burma, if more political prisoners are released and ethnic groups are included in the political process.

Separately Thursday, a spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton confirmed the EU plans to open an office in Rangoon to coordinate aid.

Burma's highly anticipated April by-election will return Aung San Suu Kyi's party to mainstream politics after two decades, though it is unclear if Aung San Suu Kyi will run for office herself.

The vote is intended to fill seats vacated by parliamentarians who have since become ministers in the government. But the number of seats available is not enough to threaten the resounding majority held by the ruling military-backed party.

In Burma's 1991 election, the then-ruling military government refused to accept the opposition National League for Democracy party's national election victory.

The party boycotted general elections in 2010 because of restrictions that, among other things, would have prevented Aung San Suu Kyi from running. That vote installed a nominally civilian government that has eased restrictions on politics and other matters.