Suu Kyi Calls for Collaboration With Military at NLD Anniversary

San Yamin Aung The Irrawaddy

RANGOON — Speaking on the 25th anniversary of her party’s founding, Burma’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi called on Friday for greater collaboration between civil society groups and the military to promote national reconciliation after decades of military rule.

“Civilian groups are not in touch with the Tatmadaw,” the 68-year-old lawmaker told reporters at a press conference at the Rangoon headquarters of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, referring to the military. “It is a big challenge, not only for me, but for the entire country, as it will lay the foundations of national reconciliation.”

Party members and foreign diplomats came out to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the party’s founding on Sept. 27, 1988. More than 500 people were in attendance, with hundreds more lining the streets outside.

The Nobel Peace laureate—whose father, independence hero Gen Aung San, founded the modern Burmese military—attended the country’s Armed Forces Day for the first time this year, after being freed from house arrest under the former regime in 2010.

Suu Kyi also reiterated calls for constitutional change before the upcoming 2015 election. The Constitution—which was written by the former regime—reserves 25 percent of seats in Parliament for military representatives and makes Suu Kyi ineligible for presidency.

“If we do not change the Constitution, we cannot say our country is really a democracy,” she said. “If we hold an election with an unfair Constitution, the result will also be unfair.”

One of the country’s most prominent democracy activists, Min Ko Naing, also spoke at the anniversary event on Friday. He called for younger NLD members to develop leadership skills.

“The new generation needs to learn from the experiences and cooperative leadership of their seniors,” said the founder of the 88 Generation Students group.

The NLD won 43 of 44 seats it contested in by-elections last year. It has been urged to reorganize and diversify its leadership, which is dominated by older party members.