NLD Holds First Youth Congress, Choses Youth Leaders

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 7 July 2014

RANGOON — The National League for Democracy (NLD) held its first ever youth congress in Rangoon this past weekend and during the long-planned event 15 youth leaders were chosen, a NLD member said.

Maung Maung Oo, central commission chairman for the NLD Youth Congress, said 166 youth representatives, aged between 16 to 35 years, from NLD township, district, division and state commissions from across Burma attended the two-day event.

Fifty seven of them were chosen to join the NLD Youth Wing and 15 among were accepted to join a Youth Working Group, he said, adding that the youth wing would be tasked with developing the party’s youth-related policies and the working group would implement them.

Dr Soe Moe Thu, a representative from Irrawaddy Division was chosen as the NLD Youth Wing leader, and Wai Phyo Aung, from Rangoon Division, will become the leader of the NLD Youth Working Group.

Maung Maung Oo said the working group would try “to increase the number of future young leaders of the NLD and to implement the parties’ policies,” adding that it would work closely with the NLD’s Central Executive Committee.

He said the youth wing and working group would focus on environment, regional development and building up capacity of the party’s youth members, who number about 100,000 nationwide.

Details on how the youth leaders planned to invigorate the ageing party leadership remained scarce, however, and Maung Maung Oo was unable to provide concrete examples of what the NLD youths’ role in the all-important 2015 elections would be.

NLD chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi told the congress that youths should join her party out of a sense of responsibility for the country and not because they are seeking personal opportunities, according to Maung Maung Oo.

“But, in accordance with the NLD’s objectives, women, youths and ethnic members will be prioritized for becoming a parliamentarian if they are qualified,” he added.

Suu Kyi has long aspired to hold a youth congress. It was only last year that the NLD held its first ever national congress, which was attended by about 900 members. The opposition party was outlawed by the military regime.

Burma’s biggest opposition party twice announced it would hold the conference, once in January and then in April, but then postponed the event, most recently because the NLD started its nationwide campaign calling for amendments to the Constitution’s Article 436.

Last year, a group of NLD youth activists formed the party’s first policy research unit, which can count on the support of several international experts.

Although the NLD is hugely popular, questions have been raised over its organizational capacity, ageing leadership and an overdependence on Suu Kyi’s leadership, which has left little room for the development of other NLD leaders.

The NLD needs to revitalize ahead of the upcoming elections and develop a younger generation of leaders, as many of its current central leaders are in their 70s and 80s.