YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A prominent ethnic minority leader recently freed from prison in Myanmar said Thursday he will register his political party but it will not contest upcoming by-elections.
Hkun Htun Oo said his Shan Nationalities League for Democracy party decided to rejoin mainstream politics after being taken off the list of legal parties because it refused to take part in the 2010 general election.
The decision is the latest move illustrating a new era in Myanmar's politics, after decades of strictly authoritarian military rule. The elected government is still dominated by the military and its allies, but the ex-general who became prime minister, Thein Sein, initiated reforms in an effort at reconciliation and ending West-imposed sanctions.
The Shan party won the second largest number of seats after Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in the 1990 election that the long-ruling junta nullified.
Suu Kyi's party, which also boycotted the 2010 polls, recently reregistered and will contest all 48 seats in the April 1 by-election.
Hkun Htun Oo said his party decided at a meeting to register "so that they can legally conduct political activities" but added the party doesn't have enough time to organize to run in the April by-election.
Hkun Htun Oo and several party colleagues were arrested in 2005 and charged with high treason and other offenses after the government accused them of launching movements to disintegrate national unity soon after they attended a meeting of many ethnic minorities.
Hkun Htun Oo, serving a 93-year prison sentence, and SNLD general secretary Sai Nyunt Lwin, serving 85 years, were freed under an amnesty on Jan. 13. After his release, Hkun Htun Oo said the charges against them were baseless and he was imprisoned only because his Shan group refused to take part in a military-directed constitution drafting process.