National League for Democracy

National League for Democracy
   Burma's largest opposition party, winner of the General Election of May 27, 1990. The party traces its origins to the Aung-Suu-Tin coalition of opposition leaders, Aung Gyi, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Tin U, who joined forces on September 12, 1988. On September 24, 1988, in the wake of the power seizure by the State Law and Order Restoration Council and the establishment of a multiparty political system, they founded the NLD, with Aung Gyi serving as chairman, Tin U as vice chairman, and Aung San Suu Kyi as general secretary. Party leadership also included a 12member central executive committee, composed of mostly conservative figures, including retired army officers, such as U Aung Shwe, U Kyi Maung, and U Lwin. At one time, the party claimed a membership of as many as two million, with branches nationwide.
   From its inception, the NLD faced serious difficulties. On December 9, 1988, Aung Gyi and his supporters left the party, claiming that the Communist Party of Burma had infiltrated the NLD and that Aung San Suu Kyi was under its influence. On July 20, 1989, Daw Suu Kyi, who is the NLD's most popular figure, and party chairman Tin U were placed under house arrest; the former was not released until July 10, 1995. Although the NLD, which campaigned under the symbol of the kamauk or farmer's bamboo hat, won almost 60 percent of the popular vote and over 80 percent of the seats contested in the May 1990 election, the SLORC did not allow it to form a government. Instead, the party has endured systematic repression at the hands of the authorities, including periodic arrest of most of its top leaders (including all but four members of the central executive committee by late 1990), detention or arrest of elected NLD parliamentarians, intimidation and arrest of local party branch leaders and members (many of whom were pressured to resign), and "mass" rallies, organized by the Union Solidarity and Development Association, demanding the party's dissolution. In the late 1990s, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) repeatedly prevented Daw Suu Kyi from visiting NLD branches outside Rangoon (Yangon), and Military Intelligence kept careful watch on both Daw Suu Kyi's home on University Avenue and NLD headquarters on West Shwegondine Road in the capital city. Pressure on the party intensified further after it established the Committee Representing the People's Parliament on September 16, 1998, although as of mid2005 the SPDC had not taken the final step of revoking the party's legal status. Hundreds of NLD leaders and members languish in jail, though others were released during a 2001-2002 "thaw" brokered by United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail.
   Some observers have criticized Daw Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders for failing to develop coherent party policies, especially concerning relations between the Burmans (Bamars) and the ethnic minorities, and for being intolerant of dissent inside the party. However, it is evident that the SPDC has tried hard to divide the NLD from within, largely by discrediting Daw Suu Kyi, and has denied the party the freedom necessary to carry out normal activities.
   Following her release from house arrest in May 2002, Daw Suu Kyi was able to visit party branches in various parts of the country, including Shan State, Mandalay Division, and Arakan (Rakhine) State. Most analysts considered the NLD's organizational structure moribund after more than a dozen years of persecution, although the sympathy and support of a "silent majority" of Burmese for the party remains potentially huge.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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