A video of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s first-ever election campaign speech for state broadcast has been leaked online, offering a preview of her criticism of the military’s role in parliament, as activists commemorated the anniversary of bloody protests Tuesday.
In the video, posted on YouTube and Facebook on Monday ahead of its official broadcast on Wednesday, the Nobel laureate called for making Burma’s government more democratic as she campaigned for a parliamentary seat in April 1 by-elections.
Aung San Suu Kyi criticized the military – which ruled the country with an iron fist for decades until a nominally civilian government was established a year ago – for reserving one quarter of the seats in parliament, which she said ran counter to democratic principles.
Most of the remaining seats are taken by pro-military parties. Aung San Suu Kyi’s own National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which boycotted 2010 elections, is contesting 47 of the 48 available seats, which have been vacated by lawmakers appointed to government posts.
Even if the NLD wins all the seats, the legislature will still be overwhelmingly dominated by the military and the ruling pro-military parties.
When the speech airs on Wednesday, it will mark the first time Aung San Suu Kyi has been allowed to use state media to promote her party’s platform.
View in RFA Video Page
Reading the 14-minute speech with the NLD flag in the background and without a single smile, Aung San Suu Kyi discussed a range of national problems and emphasized the need to bring the rule of law to the country.
She pointed to the need to revise Burma’s current constitution, which was adopted in a 2008 national referendum even after groups including the NLD denounced it as a sham.
Last week, Aung San Suu Kyi told RFA that election officials had censored part of the speech, cutting out a paragraph critical of the military’s past repressive policies.
Although most of the country will still see the speech for the first time on radio and TV on Wednesday, the online leak highlights how the Internet has been an important medium for Burmese activists.
Burma, which Reporters Without Borders listed as one of the world’s “Enemies of the Internet” yesterday, has used its laws restricting freedom of information to arrest bloggers, journalists and netizens for criticizing the government.Anniversary
The leak came just before activists in Burma marked a key anniversary on Tuesday, the first time they were allowed to do so openly.
Activists had declared Phone Maw Day – named for a student killed by government forces in the 1988 popular uprising – a national human rights day the year after his death, but could not commemorate it openly.
About 300 political party members, ex-political prisoners, writers, and students marked the anniversary with a ceremony in Rangoon.
At the ceremony, Aung San Suu Kyi urged Burma to work toward obtaining the same level of human rights that the world community enjoys.
"On the one year anniversary of Phone Maw's death, we all agreed that [his death happened] because of the lack of human rights, and we decided to mark [that day] as Burma Human Rights Day. Whatever we do [now], it must be constructive,” she said.Reported by RFA’s Burmese service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.