Thursday, 6 May 2010

Suu Kyi's opposition party becoming social movement after Myanmar law forces it from politics Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Leaders of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party said Thursday they would continue working as a social movement after Myanmar's new election law forces its dissolution as a political party at midnight.

Officials at the National League for Democracy tidied their desks, locked their files in cupboards and padlocked the gate to their main office in Yangon at 4 p.m., a quiet end to a political party founded more than 20 years ago to challenge military rule.

The League won a 1990 election but the army refused to cede power. The party declined to register for elections planned sometime this year, a step that will force its dissolution at the midnight deadline. The party says the laws are undemocratic and unfair. Its non-registration is tantamount to an election boycott.

Party officials said some of them would still go to the office as usual but would not engage in political activity.

"We will continue to serve the people and carry out social activities," party vice chairman Tin Oo said before closing the gate.

Other officials confirmed the group would continue to operate, though not as a political party.

"There is no reason for us to be sad. For us, nothing has changed. We are still the party members and our leaders will continue to strive for the goal of democracy and human rights, " said Aye Tun, a member of the party's youth wing.

Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years, instructed her party not to take down the party signboard or party flag featuring the "fighting peacock" after the deadline.

It is not clear what action authorities could take against such activity. The junta is intolerant of dissent, and has long repressed its opponents. According to the U.N. and human rights groups, there are more than 2,000 political prisoners nationwide.

When asked what action the government will take after the party's dissolution, police chief Brig. Gen. Khin Yi said: "It depends to what extent the party will abide by the law

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