Connect to share and comment

Aung San Suu Kyi attends Myanmar Armed Forces Day parade for first time

In what's seen a highly symbolic gesture, pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi attended Myanmar's annual Armed Forces Day celebrations for the first time.

Aung San Suu Kyi has, for the first time ever, attended Myanmar's Armed Forces Day parade.

The move is deeply symbolic, bringing together the pro-democracy campaigner with the military leadership she has so fiercely criticized, and which for many years kept her and her supporters locked up.

Myanmar's armed forces will continue to play a "leading political role" as the country emerges from decades of military rule, army chief Min Aung Hlaing told today's celebrations in the capital, Naypyitaw.

"We will keep on marching to strengthen the democratic path wished by the people," he said.

Suu Kyi did not speak, but her party, the National League for Democracy, issued a statement calling on the military to "take part in working for the rule of law, the emergence of peace and amending the constitution."

More from GlobalPost: Where Aung San Suu Kyi is a tarnished idol

Myanmar's current constitution, drafted by the military government in 2008, reserves a quarter of all seats in parliament for members of the armed forces. Lawmakers recently agreed to review the text.

Complicating the debate over the military's role in Myanmar's future is the spread of sectarian violence, which prompted President Thein Sein to declare martial law in the central town of Meikhtila.

Curfews have been imposed in at least six other townships, while the UN's special envoy says the government told him it "would not hesitate to push the army in" elsewhere.

General Min Aung Hlaing said today that Myanmar's military – which has been repeatedly accused of abuses during interventions in other ethnic conflicts – was keen to see this latest violence come to an end.

"The conflict that is going on now, the army never wants that to happen again," he said.

More from GlobalPost: Myanmar's '969' crusade spreads anti-Muslim malice

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/myanmar/130327/aung-san-suu-kyi-myanmar-armed-forces-day