Suu Kyi's party rocked by infighting
Members forced out or quit before convention
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy kicked off its first party congress on Friday, an event aimed at bringing in new, young members but which has devolved into infighting in recent months.
The party is set to elect 20 members for its executive committee and 120 for its central committee with about 900 people competing in the latter poll during the three-day event,.
This will be the first time that the upper echelons of Myanmar’s democracy movement will have elected its members, said Bo Bo Oo, one of those competing for a central committee position.
“There will be a radical change in the party leadership,” he said.
Suu Kyi herself will also face a vote as chairman of the NLD but is not expected to face any kind of challenge.
The conference had been scheduled for December or January but was delayed repeatedly amid heated arguments, resignations and dismissals among grassroots members as the party has started to reorganize and bring in new blood ahead of a critical general election in late 2015.
This week there was controversy when it excluded four party members elected for the congress after receiving “strong evidence” that they were attempting to create internal divisions.
Mi Mi Gyi, one of those forced out, said party lawyer and spokesman Nyan Win and senior leader Tin Oo ousted her because they did not enjoy a good relationship.
“I will defend myself from any wrong accusations,” he said. “I should be given the right to do so if the party is truly passionate about democracy.”
Nyan Win said that it was inevitable that new faces would join the NLD and that the current problems were all part of party politics.
“As anywhere, we have disagreements in our party which, however, have been openly expressed and sorted out democratically,” he said.
Nearly 300 people in Pathein and Myaungmya in the Irrawaddy Delta quit in October and November during the process of electing delegates for the party’s congress. Some party members who then complained of being sidelined were suspended from the party membership.
“We were faced with factional fights within the party. Some senior leaders favored their own followers and we did not have a chance to practice real democracy in electing the delegates,” said Dr Than Htike, who was suspended from the NLD and then quit.
With hundreds of thousands of new, younger members joining the party – a process seen as vital after decades of junta-imposed restrictions on the NLD – many older members say that their loyalty and perseverance is being too easily dismissed.
Although Suu Kyi’s name has rarely been used in connection with the ongoing tensions in the party, Dr Than Htike said that “no disgruntled party members doubt that Suu Kyi is implicated in these internal party issues.”
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