By BA KAUNG
At an event marking the NLD's 22nd anniversary, Vice-chairman Tin Oo says the party is reconsolidating and will be revitalized when Suu Kyi is released from detention.
As it marks its 22nd anniversary on Monday, the disbanded National League for Democracy (NLD) party has claimed that it is currently reconsolidating and will be revitalized when its leader Aung San Suu Kyi is released from detention.
Under the surveillance of plainclothed security forces, the anniversary event was held at the home of party vice-chairman Tin Oo in Rangoon and was attended by 300 party members and some veteran politicians.
“The NLD will become stronger when Daw Suu is released,” said Tin Oo, 83, who founded the party in 1988 together with Suu Kyi. “We are now consolidating our forces on a steady basis.”
Although the party was disbanded last month for failing to register for the Nov. 7 election, senior party officials claim that the party still exists and will continue its struggle for democracy in Burma.
Party officials said the party's headquarters in Rangoon still opens every day, but that meetings are held in its members' homes in order to avoid confrontation with the regime.
“We will continue to march forward with the principle of nonviolence guided by Daw Suu,” Tin Oo said.
Despie jail threats, the NLD has sent its representatives out to spread the message among the electorate that Burmese citizens have the right not to vote and that they can exercise that right should they find no alternative to the NLD.
Over the past 22 years, the NLD has frequently come under criticism for its unsuccessful struggle against the regime and for its aging leadership. But over the past few months, the party has undergone some changes.
Party Chairman Aung Shwe, who wanted the NLD to contest the election, has not appeared at a party gathering since March 29 when a majority of party members made a decision to boycott the polls.
Aung Shwe and some other top leaders, including party secretary U Lwin, were known for their cautious approach and were often frowned upon by party's active members at the township and regional levels.
They also reportedly discouraged party members from joining in the 2007 monks' protests. Thus, the party has been long infamous for acrimonious relations between the “elders” and the active members at the grassroots level.
This problematic relation has almost been solved since Aung Shwe and U Lwin no longer come to the party meetings, and several party members who were suspended under their leadership have been brought back within the party's fold again, according to Aye Thar Aung, the secretary of the Committee Representing the Peoples' Parliament, an alliance of several political parties which won seats in the last election in 1990.
Asked how the NLD will respond if another mass uprising occurred, Tin Oo said, “We will provide the leadership this time around.”
Led by charismatic Suu Kyi, the NLD won the 1990 election by a landslide, however the results were never honored by the regime.
“Nowadays, U Tin Oo and U Win Tin are effectively leading the party. Daw Suu is also advising them,” Aye Thar Aung said.
Myat Hla, the NLD party chairman of Pegu Township, said that the party's structure is now “more horizontal than vertical.” He was one of the party members who were suspended but recently reinstated.
Although four members of party's Central Executive committee quit the party to form the National Democratic Force NDF to contest the election, both Tin Oo and Win Tin dismiss the idea of restructuring the leadership.
“We cannot carry out a purge within the party,” Win Tin said.