Suu Kyi party plans first Myanmar conference in Feb

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition Monday said it plans to hold its first ever national conference next month, in the latest sign of the party's mainstream role after decades of repression under Myanmar's former junta.

"We have been trying to convene such a nationwide conference for more than 20 years," Ohn Kyaing, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD), told AFP.

The meeting, which will define the leadership of the party as it sets its sights on crucial 2015 polls, is scheduled for the last week of February, he said.

The NLD is in the throes of a dramatic transformation spurred on by widely-praised reforms in Myanmar under a quasi-civilian regime that took power in 2011.

Suu Kyi's once-outlawed democracy group entered parliament for the first time last year following landmark April 2012 by-elections that saw the former political prisoner become an MP.

The hugely popular group is now gearing up for a general election in two years that observers say will test the limits of Myanmar's transition to democracy as it emerges from nearly half a century of military rule.

"The main task of the conference is to elect the Central Committee and Central Executive body of the party," said Ohn Kyaing.

Around 1,500 delegates are expected to attend the meeting, he said, adding that the party was still looking for a suitable venue.

The NLD, which has 42 representatives in the lower house of parliament including Suu Kyi, is facing the challenge of further reinventing itself as its ageing leadership faces the growing expectations of a new generation.

Maël Raynaud, Yangon-based independent analyst, told AFP the party is one where "old men have the power and where young people are extremely frustrated because everything is decided from Yangon".

He added that the party was caught between the reality of campaigning for power and its "revolutionary" ideals.

Suu Kyi's journey into parliament has already seen her agree to work with the former generals who dominate the country's government, including holding several meetings with reformist President Thein Sein.

But while the Myanmar leader in September said he would accept Suu Kyi as president, a constitutional rule currently bars "The Lady" from taking the top government role because she was married to a British man and has two sons who are both foreign nationals.

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