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Myanmar Parliament Reopens; Suu Kyi Refuses To Take Seat


Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon on April 2
Myanmar's parliament has reconvened following recent elections, but pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party have refused to take their seats amid a dispute over the parliamentary oath.

Suu Kyi's party wants oath wording that says lawmakers will "safeguard the constitution" replaced with "respect the constitution." They argue that the current constitution is undemocratic.

The row comes as European Union nations are expected to suspend most sanctions against Myanmar to reward the country for democratic reforms since the end of direct military rule one year ago in the Southeast Asian nation.

President Thein Sein, the civilian president who took over after the end of military rule, said on April 23 he would not backtrack on democratization. But he also vowed he will not support changes to the parliamentary oath.

Suu Kyi, in a landmark by-election earlier this month, won a seat in the lower house of parliament. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) won 43 of the 44 seats the party contested.

It was the first time Suu Kyi, who spent more than 20 years under house arrest under Myanmar's military rule, had run for a seat in parliament.

As a lawmaker, Suu Kyi has vowed to make changes to the 2008 constitution under which one-quarter of seats in parliament are reserved for unelected military officials.

Her NLD party has appealed directly to the president to change the wording of the parliamentary oath but says it has not received a formal reply yet.

Thein, who over the past year has been pushing a reform program, was quoted as saying that "there won't be any U-turn" on reforms. But the president, who is currently on a visit to Japan, also said he won't change the wording of the oath, saying it was up to Suu Kyi whether or not she would take her seat in parliament.

Suu Kyi recently called for international sanctions against Myanmar to be suspended following reforms carried out by Thein's government.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is also planning her first trip abroad in some 24 years.

European Union nations have agreed to suspend sanctions on Myanmar to reward the country for its reforms.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg agreed to suspend for one year all EU sanctions on Myanmar, except for an arms embargo that will remain in place.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and the BBC
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