NLD Prepares for First National Youth Congress

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 26 February 2014

RANGOON — Burma’s biggest opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), says it will hold its first nationwide youth congress in late April.

Maung Maung Oo, who heads the NLD’s Youth Affairs, said the preparations on township level are still ongoing, but an April 11 deadline has now been set for these meetings, after which the NLD will announce a date for a youth congress. Originally, the NLD had planned to hold a congress in January.

“The township meetings will take time to finish, we have 308 township branches all over the nation, but districts and central level meetings are already finished,” he said, adding that the NLD had about 100,000 youth members nationwide.

The local levels meetings are being held in order to select a youth representative from each area who will attend the NLD youth congress, Maung Maung Oo said, adding that NLD members between the ages of 15 and 35 years can attend the congress.

The party’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has long aspired to hold a youth congress. The idea received more backing last year after the NLD held a national assembly of about 900 members in March—also a first for the party, which was outlawed before President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government came to power in 2011.

Suu Kyi entered Parliament with another 40 NLD members after wins in the 2012 by-elections and the 68-year-old now has her eye on the presidency in the 2015 elections. At the assembly in March, Suu Kyi was unanimously re-elected as party chairperson, while veteran party members were chosen to fill a core executive committee of 15 people.

Although the party 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 wants to revitalize ahead of the elections and develop a younger generation of leaders, as many of its current central leaders are in their 70s and 80s.

Maung Maung Oo said, “We want to organize youth forces for the future, and we want to improve their skills and ability for party’s sustainable development.”

“I expected that after the youth congress, youth development affairs will be addressed more systematically,” he said.

The NLD was founded during the 1988 pro-democracy movement and quickly attracted many young members to support Suu Kyi. The party won a landslide victory in the 1990 election, but the military government refused to honor the outcome. Suu Kyi and many party members were detained as political prisoners for years until they were released in 2010.