Monday, April 02, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi hails 'new era' for Burma

The Guardian (UK)
Esmer Golluoglu in Rangoon
April 2, 2012.

Thousands celebrate historic byelection victory as the National League for Democracy claims 43 out of 44 seats

Aung San Suu Kyi waves to the crowd as she leaves National League
for Democracy headquarters. Photograph: Christophe
Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

Aung San Suu Kyi has hailed "the beginning of a new era" in Burma's politics after her party claimed a spectacular 43 out of 44 parliamentary seats in Sunday's historic byelection.

Speaking to thousands of red-clad supporters outside the headquarters of her opposition party, the National League for Democracy' (NLD), the Nobel laureate called the election "a triumph of the people" and said: "We hope this will be the beginning of a new era."

Traffic slowed to a crawl as throngs of people, many of them waving flags and clutching red and white roses, spilled into the street to cheer, clap and call out "Amay Suu" (Mother Suu) as her motorcade arrived. At least one person was trampled underfoot when bodyguards pushed back the crowds and people swarmed to the car to see the woman who spent almost 22 years under house arrest and who many hope will create a new future for Burma's 60 million people.

Aung San Suu Kyi spoke briefly in both Burmese and English to loud applause and cheers from the crowd.

"What is important is not how many seats we may have won, but that … the people participated in the democratic process," she said to great applause, before adding: "We invite all parties who wish to bring peace and prosperity to our country [to work together]."

Aung San Suu Kyi also said on Monday the NLD would be filing complaints about the "rampant irregularities" that her party says took place in Sunday's election, and that only a proper investigation would ensure the democratic process.

The NLD contested 44 of 45 open seats in Burma's 664-seat parliament, a quarter of which is reserved for the military. Burma has been ruled for the past five decades by a military junta. The regime has only recently allowed reforms that are opening up Burma to the outside world.

While official results are not expected for several days, many Burmese consider Sunday's vote a landmark election that will forever change the course of the country's history.

"Look at us – we are so happy, it's like we've each been released from prison," said warehouse manager Myint Ng Than, 61, as men around him danced and sang along to a Johnny Cash-inspired anthem calling for the end of "sham democracy" outside the NLD headquarters. "We have freedom now. Amay Suu will save us."

Comment: Aung San Suu Kyi is an amazing woman and her struggle alongside the people of Burma is an incredible story of bravery and principled fortitude.

There will be many challenges that lie ahead.  The military junta won't just walk away from its domination of Burmese politics and life.  

But through the dark days the balance is unavoidable.  In time truth will win.  It is that inevitable balance.

For now the will of the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi' is pervasive and nothing short of inspiring - even providential.

Onward! to a free Burma.

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