Suu Kyi joins parliament as Myanmar enters new phase

AFP PHOTO/ Soe Than WIN

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (C) on her way to read her parliamentary oath at the lower house of parliament during a session in Naypyidaw on May 2, 2012. Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as a member of parliament on May 2, opening a new chapter in the Nobel laureate's near quarter-century struggle against oppression.

AYPYIDAW, Wednesday

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as a member of parliament Wednesday, opening a new chapter in the Nobel laureate's near quarter-century struggle against authoritarian rule.

The 66-year-old, in the capital Naypyidaw for the ceremony, stood to read the brief oath in unison with 33 other members of her National League for Democracy party elected to the lower house in April, an AFP reporter said.

The oath hands Suu Kyi public office for the first time and marks a transformation in the fortunes of the opposition leader, who was held under house arrest for much of the last 20 years but is now central to the nation's tentative transition to democracy.

She had initially baulked at taking the oath, specifically a sentence pledging to "safeguard" the army-created constitution.

But on Monday she backed down after the head of the nominally civilian government President Thein Sein held firm over the oath, explaining it was the "desire of the people" to see her party in office after breakthrough April 1 by-elections.

Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's ceremony the veteran dissident said: "I believe I can serve the interests of the people more than before".

She was then whisked away by car to Naypyidaw airport to return to Yangon.

The international community greeted her election as a step towards democracy and had urged Suu Kyi, who drew huge crowds on the campaign trail, to take her seat amid fears her refusal could stall the transition from military rule.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday expressed hope of further cooperation between the NLD and Thein Sein's government.

In comments later echoed by the US State Department, Ban said his meetings in Myanmar this week with Thein Sein and the NLD leader had left him "convinced that they will continue to make progress."

The NLD is the main opposition force after securing 43 of the 44 seats it contested in the by-elections.

The party, which boycotted a controversial 2010 election, agreed to rejoin the political mainstream last year after a series of reforms by the government.

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