Suu Kyi speech leaked on Internet before broadcast

AP News
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Posted: Mar 13, 2012 7:05 AM
Suu Kyi speech leaked on Internet before broadcast

Internet users have received a sneak preview of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's first-ever campaign speech for state television, with the Nobel laureate repeating her election theme of making the country more democratic.

A video posted on several websites, including Facebook and YouTube, shows Suu Kyi proclaiming her National League for Democracy's party platform ahead of April 1 by-elections. Her party is contesting 47 of the 48 parliamentary seats at stake after having one candidate disqualified.

The appearance of the tape online before its official release is a reminder of how the Internet has been effectively used for many years to transmit news from Myanmar's pro-democracy movement regardless of what official censorship exists. However, with Myanmar having very low rates of Internet use, especially in rural areas, broadcasting the speech on state television _ and radio _ will bring Suu Kyi's words to a much wider audience than otherwise possible.

All 17 parties running have been given 15-minute slots on state television to promote their policies. The NLD statement, taped Monday and leaked the same day, is scheduled to be broadcast on Wednesday and on March 22.

In her broadcast, Suu Kyi repeated her campaign theme of undoing the repressive measures of past military regimes to make the country more democratic.

The broadcast will mark the first time the democracy icon and Nobel Peace laureate has been given the opportunity to use state media to promote her party's platform.

After decades of military repression, a nominally civilian government that was elected last year has been enacting reforms, including releasing hundreds of political prisoners, relaxing media censorship and allowing Suu Kyi to stand as a candidate for her party.

However, the military is guaranteed a quarter of the seats in the country's lower house, and the remainder is dominated by the main pro-military party.

The Election Commission censored a paragraph of the text of Suu Kyi's speech, which had to be submitted in advance. It was excised under regulations that include a ban on statements harming the military's image.

Still, Suu Kyi was able to offer stiff criticism of the status quo in her talk, which was recorded in a studio where she sat at a desk and spoke directly into the camera with her hands clasped in front of her. On the wall behind her is a large NLD flag, while a smaller NLD flag is on the desk.

Suu Kyi called for repealing repressive laws, ensuring the judicial system is independent, allowing full freedom of the media and expanding the network of social assistance to include legal aid.

She also called for amending the 2008 constitution, which was drafted with the army's guidance, saying that its automatic allocation of 25 percent of the parliamentary seats to unelected representatives of the military is not democratic.

However, she also extended a hand to the military, which has been her constant nemesis since she became a leader of the country's pro-democracy movement in 1988.

"According to Myanmar's political history, I believe that the military must play a role for the development of the country," she said. "I also believe that the military, which was founded by my father, Gen. Aung San, is always ready to serve in the interest of the country."