Burma democracy campaigner stands by elderly party 'Uncles'

BURMA'S pro-democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi has ruled out a reorganisation of her party to replace elderly leaders with a younger generation.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was released last month from seven years of house arrest, also said she would not use the issue of sanctions as a bargaining chip with the ruling generals.

Suu Kyi is fighting for the existence of her party, which has been officially disbanded by the military regime because it boycotted the country's first election in 20 years, held last month.

Many senior NLD members are in their 80s and 90s and there had been speculation that the dissident might overhaul its Central Executive Committee (CEC) to bring in new blood. But she said she had no plans for such a move.

"We are not going to ask our older leaders to leave because they want to serve as long as they have strength to serve the party and I think that is a good thing to be encouraged," the 65-year-old said.

"We are not going to reorganise the CEC or anything like that," said Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the past two decades locked up by the junta.

The NLD's decision to boycott the first election in 20 years deeply split the opposition, between those in agreement and others who saw the vote as a chance for gradual change, albeit through a deeply flawed electoral process.

Suu Kyi's closest political allies reacted angrily after a group of former NLD members broke away and set up a new party – the National Democratic Force – to contest the poll, accusing them of betraying their colleagues.

A leaked diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Yangon expressed concern about the ageing party leaders, whom it described as "elderly NLD Uncles".

"The way the Uncles run the NLD indicates the party is not the last great hope for democracy and Burma," said the 2008 confidential memo, released by the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks earlier this month.