Aung San Suu Kyi Begins Campaign Rally in Eastern Myanmar

myanmar-assk-campaign-rally-kayah-state-sept10-2015.jpg National League for Democracy chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech during an election campaign rally in Bawlakhe in eastern Myanmar's Kayah state, Sept. 10, 2015.

Myanmar opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi told supporters in eastern Myanmar that she wants her party to get 100 percent of the vote in the upcoming general elections so it can gain control parliament, the democracy icon said Thursday during her first campaign rally.

“Whenever I am asked how much of the vote I want, I always answer I want 100 percent, said Aung San Suu Kyi during a public speech in Demoso, a small town in eastern Myanmar’s Kayah state, where she urged the thousands who turned out to vote for candidates from her National League for Democracy (NLD) party on Nov. 8.

More than 150,000 people of Kayah state’s population of 286,600 are eligible to vote. Aung San Suu Kyi also visited the town of Bawlakhe on Thursday.

She will campaign in the state capital Loikaw and the town of Hpasawng on Friday, then return to Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon, where she represents the rural constituency of Kawhmu, on Saturday.

Holding campaign rallies in areas such as Kayah state, which are strongholds of the ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), is part of the NLD’s strategy to upend high-ranking government officials.

Both Soe Thein, the powerful minister of the President’s Office, and Aung Min, another minister of the President’s Office and the country’s chief peace negotiator, are running as independent candidates for parliament in Kayah state.

‘Votes are much more valuable’

The elections will determine representatives for both houses of parliament as well as regional chambers for the next five years.

“If we say that votes in this election are much more valuable than they were in the 1990 elections, it would not be incorrect,” Aung San Suu Kyi said, referring to her party’s landslide victory that year, which was ignored by the military junta that ruled Myanmar at the time and put her under house arrest.

The NLD boycotted the last general elections in 2010 held during military rule, which were criticized as being rigged in favor of the USDP.

The NLD is fielding more than 1,000 candidates for the 2015 elections, while the USDP has put forth slightly fewer.

Although the NLD is expected to win the 2015 elections, which many expect to be the freest and fairest vote in decades, Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from becoming president because her late husband was a foreign national, as are her two sons.

Even if the NLD receives 100 percent of the vote, its candidates will have only 75 percent of the seats in parliament, because 25 percent automatically go to military representatives.

“We don’t want to be poor, and we don’t want people to be poor,” Aung San Suu Kyi told her supporters. “We have to collaborate for the country’s development. We believe that democracy gives people freedom and security.”

The beginning of peace

Aung San Suu Kyi also addressed efforts to achieve a nationwide peace deal between ethnic minority states that seek greater autonomy and the government. Ongoing clashes between armed ethnic groups and government forces have rocked several areas of the country this year.

President Thein Sein has emphasized the need for a nationwide peace accord before the elections take place, so the country can move on to political dialogue.

On Wednesday, Thein Sein and leaders of the armed ethnic groups reached a tentative deal to sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA), starting with the 15 groups with which the government  already has bilateral peace agreements.

“As you all know, we have been trying for a cease-fire which is good,” Aung San Suu Kyi said during her speech in Kayah state. “A cease-fire is the beginning of peace. If we can make a firm NCA that all ethnic groups accept, we can say that the door to peace is open.”

Reported by Myo Thant Khaine, Nay Thway and Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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