Myanmar’s government granted legal status to Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s political party in a further sign of reforms before planned by-elections in which the democracy advocate will run for parliament for the first time.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy plans to submit its policies and constitution to authorities in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital, after being permitted to register, party spokesman Nyan Win said by phone. The NLD voted last month to formally re-register after boycotting 2010 elections won by allies of the former ruling junta.
“We received permission to register and we decided to run in the by-elections,” Nyan Win said by phone from Yangon, the former capital. “It’s a good sign.”
Suu Kyi’s participation in yet-to-be-scheduled elections would build on President Thein Sein’s efforts to ease political repression and end the country’s international isolation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Dec. 2 she was “cautiously hopeful” after completing the highest-level U.S. visit to Myanmar in more than five decades.
Derek Mitchell, a special U.S. envoy to Myanmar, met with Chinese foreign ministry officials yesterday in an effort to coordinate policies. U.S. sanctions in place for more than two decades have left Myanmar dependent on neighbors China, India and Thailand, which have poured more than $25 billion into ports, power plants, and oil and gas pipelines.
“There is no intent of the United States in its relationship with Burma to have any certainly negative influence on Burma-China relations,” Mitchell told reporters in Beijing today, according to an e-mailed transcript of his remarks. “It is not meant to come at the expense of any country,” said Mitchell, who referred to Myanmar by its former name Burma.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba plans to meet with Clinton before visiting Myanmar later this month, Kyodo News reported today, while U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague announced a plan to visit in early January during a joint appearance with Clinton in Washington yesterday. Last month, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to let Myanmar chair the 10-member bloc in 2014.
Thein Sein has released hundreds of political prisoners, legalized unions, lifted censorship of media outlets like the BBC and held talks with Suu Kyi since taking power 10 months ago. His Union Solidarity and Development Party, backed by the former ruling junta, won about 80 percent of 664 seats in last year’s election.
Clinton said during her visit that the U.S. would discuss loosening restrictions on engagement by the World Bank and the United Nations. Other measures leading toward an end to sanctions, including an upgrade in diplomatic relations, would occur if Myanmar takes additional steps such as releasing more than 1,000 political prisoners still behind bars, she said.
The U.S. maintains sanctions on Myanmar that were first imposed in 1988 after soldiers killed about 3,000 student protesters, according to an estimate by Human Rights Watch. A series of congressional acts and presidential orders since then have banned imports, restricted money transfers, curbed aid money, frozen assets, and targeted jewelry with gemstones originating in Myanmar.
Suu Kyi was put under house arrest before 1990 elections in which the NLD won 80 percent of seats. The generals later ignored the results and kept Suu Kyi in detention for much of the next two decades before her release last year.