Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi Takes Parliamentary Oath

Posted May 2nd, 2012 at 2:20 am (UTC-5)
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Burma's long-time democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has officially been sworn in as a member of parliament, taking public office for the first time after spending much of the past two decades under house arrest.

The Nobel laureate took the oath of office Wednesday to enter Burma's lower legislative house, ending a parliamentary boycott that had threatened to interrupt the country's political reform process.

For more than a week, the 66-year-old opposition leader and her National League for Democracy had refused to take the oath because it required them to “safeguard” the constitution, which was drafted by Burma's former military rulers.

But the NLD earlier this week agreed to take the pledge, while vowing to push for constitutional change through legislative action.

Aung San Suu Kyi said after taking the oath that she has no qualms about sitting next to Burmese military members, who still make up the bulk of the country's parliament. But she said she would like to see the country's legislative bodies become more democratic.

“We would like our parliament to be in line with genuine democratic values. It's not because we want to remove anybody, as such. We just want to make the kind of improvements that would make our national assembly truly democratic.”

Parliament member Win Oo of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party praised Aung San Suu Kyi's decision to enter back down from her parliamentary boycott.

“The fact that Suu Kyi has come to the parliament is good because as we have said so many times, if we want to achieve things for the benefit of the people and the country we should let sleeping dogs lie.”

The United States on Tuesday also welcomed the move. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said the U.S. hopes Burma's government and its opposition groups will work together to “build on the democratic progress that has been made.”

The NLD, which won 43 of the 45 available seats in Burma's April 1 by-elections, now becomes the main opposition party in a bicameral legislature that is still dominated by military-backed political parties.

Aung San Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory in general elections in 1990. But military leaders at the time refused to relinquish power and the victors were refused entry into parliament.

The NLD boycotted the 2010 elections that ended decades of military rule in Burma.

Since then, President Thein Sein and his new nominally civilian government have enacted a series of democratic reforms, including easing press restrictions and releasing some political prisoners.