Presidential adviser says Suu Kyi can rule Burma one day

Fri, Jan 6, 2012, 00:00

A SENIOR aide to the Burmese president has welcomed the prospect of the party of Aung San Suu Kyi (66), the democracy campaigner and Nobel prizewinner, taking power in the country.

“They can be the ruling party one day,” Nay Zin Latt, the personal political adviser of President Thein Sein, said.

His comments constitute one of the most outspoken declarations of support for change in the secretive and repressive state so far.

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, arrived in Burma yesterday for a two-day visit aimed at “encouraging reforms”. He is the first British official of such rank to travel to the country for more than 50 years.

Many observers however, both inside Burma and outside, doubt the authorities’ commitment to what Latt described as “a mission of democratisation”.

Between 600 and 2,000 political prisoners remain in jail, the army continues operations against ethnic groups in the northeast of the country and censorship, although somewhat eased, remains heavy.

Political life and the economy is dominated by the ruling regime. Nonetheless, it now appears likely Ms Suu Kyi will lead her party, the National League for Democracy, in byelections in April. The move is controversial and some campaigners within Burma oppose it.

The NLD boycotted elections held in November 2010 – the first for 20 years – as its leader was still under house arrest. She was released shortly after the poll.

Ms Suu Kyi told the BBC she now believed Burma would hold democratic elections in her lifetime. She qualified her statement, however, by saying that she did not know if she would live “a normal lifespan”.

She said President Thein Sein, appointed by the elderly military dictator Than Shwe in 2010 to lead a nominally civilian government and a transition to democracy, was “an honest man . . . a man capable of taking risks if he thinks they are worth taking”.

The key issue of political prisoners remains unresolved, however. There was widespread disappointment at the limited scale of an amnesty earlier this week to mark the anniversary of Burmese independence from British rule.

Only 10 political prisoners were freed, all serving short sentences.

Kokoji, an activist and former prisoner, said: “We cannot say there is any change. We can just glimpse some kind of road ahead but we are still at the starting point. As long as there are still political prisoners, abuses, civil war and land grabs you cannot talk of change.” – (Guardian service)