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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Junta disbands Suu Kyi’s political party in Myanmar

By Sui-Lee Wee

The political party of Myanmar’s imprisoned opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been officially dissolved, in yet another blow to the Southeast Asian nation’s democracy.

The party, the National League for Democracy, was disbanded by Myanmar’s military-appointed election commission, state media said late Tuesday. The announcement set the stage for an upcoming election that will almost certainly keep the junta in power for years to come.

Before Tuesday’s announcement, the NLD had already made it clear that it would not participate in the election, calling it a sham. When the party failed to register with the election commission, Myanmar’s state television said that the NLD — as well as 39 other opposition parties — would be dissolved.

U Kyaw Htwe, a spokesperson for the NLD, said the party would continue its activities, despite the announcement from the election commission. “As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said before, if there are people, the NLD party will exist,” said U Tun Myint, another NLD spokesperson. “The NLD is already in the hearts of the people.”

Tun Myint said that the military has burned down more than 200 NLD offices, killed more than 90 party members and supporters and arrested more than 1,300 party members since the generals seized power in a coup two years ago.

“There is nothing darker than midnight,” he said, using a Burmese phrase that means things are as bad as they can get.

The NLD clinched landslide victories in three previous elections. In the last election, held in November 2020, the party won 82% of the available seats in Parliament. But before the new Parliament could be sworn in on Feb. 1. 2021, the military staged its coup, detaining Suu Kyi and other top NLD officials.

Suu Kyi, 77, has since been given a 33-year prison sentence. The military regime accused her of a range of charges, including corruption and violating the Official Secrets Act. The United Nations and international human rights groups have condemned the prosecutions, calling them politically motivated with the intent of keeping Suu Kyi out of power.

After the coup, NLD leaders who escaped arrest — as well as politicians from other parties — formed a new government called the National Unity Government. The organization, which operates in exile and has not been recognized by any international body, has supported armed rebel groups engaged in violent clashes against the military.

Battling against the People’s Defense Force, as the armed rebel groups are known, the military now struggles to control territory throughout the country.

Suu Kyi has long been a thorn in the side of Myanmar’s generals, who see her overwhelming popularity as a threat to military power. She was previously kept under house arrest for nearly 15 years until 2010, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 in recognition of her struggle for democracy.

Although Suu Kyi is still revered by many in Myanmar, a large swath of the population is now looking beyond her for guidance. In the two years since the coup, a younger, more progressive — and confrontational — generation has emerged, reshaping politics and society.

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