By MIN LWIN
Sixty-three senior officials of Burma’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and 95 elected members of parliament from the party gathered today for their first general meeting in more than a decade.
“At least 150 NLD members attended the meeting,” said Soe Win, one of the attendees, adding that foreign diplomats and reporters were also present at an opening ceremony held this morning.
Win Tin, a prominent member of the party’s central executive committee (CEC) who was released last year after 19 years in prison, delivered the opening address, he added.
During the two-day gathering, the NLD will discuss the three key issues of party organization, constitutional review and the party’s stance on recent political developments, according to Ohn Kyaing, an NLD spokesperson.
Asked to elaborate, Ohn Kyaing declined to provide further details.
“We will release an official statement soon,” he said, adding simply that the party would “discuss all the issues that people are talking about.”
The most pressing issue facing the party is whether it will take part in a junta-sponsored election planned for next year. Under existing election rules, any party that fails to field at least three candidates in the election must be disbanded.
“It is a challenge for the NLD, because if the party is deregistered, what will it do?” said Nyo Ohn Myint of the exiled National league for Democracy—Liberated Area (NLD-LA).
However, NLD chairman Aung Shwe indicated today that the party wouldn’t allow the junta to force its hand.
Speaking at the opening of the party meeting, Aung Shwe said the NLD would wait until new election and party registration laws come out before making a decision on whether to participate in the election.
“We have to wait and see whether they will be based on democratic principles,” Aung Shwe said at the opening of the party meeting.
The NLD has so far expressed little interest in taking part in the election, which would be the first since 1990, when the party won 82 percent of the seats. Most of the party’s 392 elected officials have since been forced to resign or have gone into exile. At least 13 are still in prisons across the country.
The last time the party attempted to hold a general meeting, in 1998, dozens of elected members were detained and interrogated by the military authorities. The party last held a meeting in 1997.
According to reports, police were deployed near party headquarters on Monday while dozens of plainclothes policemen watched the building from across the street and a convoy of four to seven trucks carrying anti-riot police cruised the city.