Faction of Suu Kyi's dissolved party announces plans to form new Myanmar opposition party

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A faction of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party said Friday it will form its own political party to contest historic elections this year.

The announcement came a day after the forced dissolution of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, which won Myanmar's last election in 1990 but never allowed by the army to take power.

The League declined to re-register for elections planned for this year, as stipulated by a new election law. The League says the laws are undemocratic and unfair, and its non-registration was tantamount to an election boycott.

However, a group of League members who had disagreed with the boycott said they would form their own party called the National Democratic Force.

"We will form a new political party to continue our struggle for democracy and human rights," said Khin Maung Swe, a former senior member of Suu Kyi's party and a former political prisoner.

Whether Suu Kyi would play any role in the new party was not immediately clear but unlikely. She had previously called the junta's election laws "undemocratic" and said she would "not even think" of registering her party for the polls.

Swe said he had suggested the idea of forming a "lifeboat party" to enable the League to circumvent the dissolution. "The idea was not accepted," he said.

Swe said the new party would register with the Election Commission this month. The law that imposed a May 6 registration deadline applied only to existing political parties.

"We are going to continue our unending democratic struggle within the legal framework," said Than Nyein, expected to serve as the new party's chairman.

On Thursday, officials at the National League for Democracy tidied their desks and locked files at their main office in Yangon, a quiet end to a political party founded more than 20 years ago to challenge military rule.

Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years, was convicted last year of illegally harboring a visitor, an eccentric American who swam uninvited to her lakeside home.

The government has not yet announced a date for the upcoming elections, which will be the first in two decades.

The upcoming elections have been widely criticized as a sham designed to cement military rule.