Yangon: Newly transformed from imprisoned
icon during a long struggle against repression in Myanmar to a
key political actor, Aung San Suu Kyi is now on course to take
a seat in parliament for the first time.
It is a remarkable turnaround for the Nobel laureate, who
burst onto Myanmar`s political scene almost by accident in the
late 1980s but was kept as a prisoner in her own home by the
generals for most of the past 22 years.
Before her release from house arrest in November 2010,
the figure in the recent film "The Lady", shut away and silent
in her crumbling lakeside mansion, was a powerful symbol of a
nation labouring under the yoke of a junta.
But as Myanmar`s nominally civilian government seeks a
thaw in relations with the West and an easing of economic
sanctions, the 66-year-old opposition leader now finds herself
in a position of extraordinary influence.
Suu Kyi drew huge crowds on the campaign trail and her
party claimed she won a seat in parliament with an
overwhelming majority in Sunday`s by-elections.
If her win is confirmed, as is widely expected if the
vote is relatively fair, Suu Kyi will have an unprecedented
opportunity to help shape the country`s legislative agenda,
even though the military-backed ruling party will retain its
"She`ll be able to advocate reforms and changes much
more openly," said Trevor Wilson, a visiting fellow at the
Australian National University.
But the pro-democracy champion will need to cooperate
to some extent with other political parties as well as
unelected military representatives who hold one quarter of the
seats in parliament, he said.
"She`s not going to be able to take an extreme
revolutionary stance. She`s going to have to, in some ways,
take a fairly pragmatic and even cooperative approach," added
Wilson, a former Australian ambassador to Myanmar.
There has been speculation that Suu Kyi might be
offered a role in the army-backed government, although she has
ruled out taking a ministerial post because she would be
required to give up her seat in parliament.
"I have no intention of leaving the parliament to
which I have tried so hard to get into," she told a news
conference on Friday.
But she indicated that she might be willing to take on
some kind of other role, possibly to help resolve the
country`s ethnic conflicts.
"I`d like to be one of those who are working to unite
this country... in a way in which all the ethnic nationalities
would be able to live peacefully and happily with one
another," she said.