Myanmar's Suu Kyi invokes father's sacrifice ahead of elections

Myanmar's Suu Kyi invokes father's sacrifice ahead of elections
Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi prays as she attends an event marking Martyrs' Day at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon.
PHOTO: Reuters

YANGON - Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi invoked the memory of her assassinated father on Sunday, describing upcoming elections as an opportunity to continue his legacy and bring real change to the former junta-ruled nation.

The Nov 8 poll will be the first general election in a quarter of a century to be contested by her National League for Democracy (NLD), which is expected to make huge gains at the ballot box if the vote is free and fair.

The democracy icon's position as foremost opposition leader stems both from her years of dogged defiance under house arrest and her status as daughter of independence hero Aung San.

Known affectionately as "Bogyoke" (General), Aung San led Myanmar's battle for independence from Britain. But he was gunned down by local rivals alongside eight other independence leaders in July 1947, just months before his dream was finally realised.

"The NLD believes that we have a responsibility to the martyrs who were killed before they finished their duty to achieve independence. NLD has been formed to fulfil that duty," she said in a speech to supporters at her Yangon party headquarters marking the 68th anniversary of her father's assassination.

"This country will only be developed if it's really changed," she added.

While Myanmar went on to achieve full independence, it languished for decades under a brutal, isolationist and paranoid junta which crushed opposition and locked up Suu Kyi for the best part of two decades.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was released from house arrest in 2010 and a year later the military handed power to a quasi-reformist government, prompting the lifting of most western sanctions and promises of a return to full democracy.

For Myanmar's roughly 30 million voters the election is a rare opportunity to cast their votes and it will give the international community a chance to judge the country's democratic progress.

The NLD won national polls in 1990 by a landslide, while Suu Kyi was under house arrest, but the military prevented it from taking power.

This year's election will be the first time the party has tested its popularity at the ballot box since then.

NLD patron Tin Oo announced Sunday that the party had adopted the motto: "Vote for the NLD for real change".

Suu Kyi delivered a similar message, portraying her party as the only entity that could offer a genuine break from the past.

"When asked if we want power, we have clearly said we want it," she said. "According to democratic politics we are best able to serve the people only if we have official power." But however well her party fares, Suu Kyi has little chance of taking the country's top post.

A clause in the current constitution bars those with a foreign spouse or children from becoming president. Suu Kyi's sons are British, as was her late husband.

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