ASIA- WORLD NEWS TOMORROW: Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi played down the significance of the day, telling reporters that joining Parliament was part of the progression of her political career. “I’ve been in politics for the last 23 years,” she said. “This is a continuation of that.” But her presence in Parliament, after a stubborn battle for democracy in the country, is a milestone for Myanmar and a boon for the reconciliation program of President Thein Sein.Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was supposed to have been sworn late last month but she and her party raised an objection to the oath, seeking to dilute the wording that pledged allegiance to the Constitution. She backed down on Monday after a group of fellow parliamentarians pleaded with her drop her opposition to the oath.
As a globally recognized figure who is wildly popular inside the country, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi wields a powerful personal imprimatur: By entering Parliament, analysts say, she is providing democratic legitimacy to a system built by the brutal military junta she opposed for more than two decades.That junta, which kept her under house arrest for a total of 15 years, is now gone — replaced with Mr. Thein Sein’s civilian government. Yet the precarious balance in Myanmar between a military fighting to retain a dominant role in the new system and the democracy movement that wishes to subjugate soldiers to civilian masters was starkly symbolized in Parliament on Wednesday.
On one side of the vast hall were ranks of soldiers, a parliamentary phalanx of green uniforms. Their presence is mandated by the constitution. The ruling party and the army’s ostensible allies, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, made up the vast majority of the other members seated in the hall, a sea of white shirts.Squinting into the assembly, observers could make out the diminutive figure of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. She and the three dozen members of her party who took the oath Wednesday make up eight percent of the lower house of Parliament.
Drafted by the previous military junta, the current system is heavily titled toward the armed forces. The military has power to formulate its own budget, can take control in case of a vaguely defined emergency and is guaranteed 25 percent representation in Parliament.Yet even with these considerable powers, the military has shown signs of pushing back against the prospect of civilian encroachment in recent weeks. Last month, 59 majors in Parliament were replaced with senior officers ranked from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general, according to Myanmar’s election commission.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi had soldiers sitting behind her and a large contingent to her right but the atmosphere was formal and cordial. “I have tremendous good will toward the military,” she told reporters as she prepared to leave the hall. “So it doesn’t in any way bother me to sit with them.” Her father, Aung San, was the founder of the country’s armed forces.
Future tensions appear likely if Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party pursues its campaign promise to amend the constitution, specifically reducing or abolishing the 25 percent military quota in Parliament. “We very much want to change this 25 percent,” Nyan Win, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy, said in an interview. “But we will start with what is possible.”
Asked about the military’s future in Parliament, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was less direct. “We would like our Parliament to be in line with genuine democratic values,” she said. “It’s not because we want to remove anybody as such.”