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Suu Kyi takes seat in Burma's parliament
Kate Arnott reports on Aung San Suu Kyi's entry into Burma's parliament.

For most of the past 20 years, the likelihood of Burmese Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi taking a seat in Parliament seemed beyond the bounds of possibility.

But at long last, after a landslide victory in last month's election, she and 33 members of her national league for democracy have taken the oath of office.

Kate Arnott reports.
KATE ARNOTT, REPORTER: She had been fighting for this moment for a long time. After a momentous 20 year struggling against military, Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy finally took their places in the Burmese parliament.

(Footage of NLD members taking the oath of office)

But all of this nearly didn't happen. The NLD had initially refused to swear a parliamentary oath, which safeguards the military created constitution. But in the end, Aung San Suu Kyi decided a boycott of Parliament wasn't in the best interests of her country.

And despite fiercely disputing the wording of the constitution, the NLD swore an oath to it anyway.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI, BURMESE OPPOSITION LEADER (Translation): We decided to compromise in this situation because we don't want to become a political problem. Some people may think the NLD has given in, but let them think what they want.

MONIQUE SKIDMORE, UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA: Yes they've given in, but they've done so because they're playing a longer game here. And I think that there is a good chance that we will see these rules, the constitution eventually repealed, but it is a case of timing in Burma.

KATE ARNOTT: It's been a big week for Aung San Suu Kyi. And it started with a historic visit from the UN Secretary General.

Ban Ki-moon sees the NLD's back down as necessary to help Burma move towards further reform.

BAN KI-MOON, UN SECRETARY GENERAL: Politicians sometimes will continue to have differences on some issues, but a real leader demonstrates flexibility for the greater cause of people, for country.

This is what she has done.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: We have always believed in being flexible throughout the years of our struggle because that is the only way in which we can achieve our goal without violence.

KATE ARNOTT: But the opposition leader's flexibility may only stretch so far. And she's certainly not backing down on her pursuit of constitutional change.

MONIQUE SKIDMORE: It's not at all unlikely that Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD would resign from Parliament immediately if they felt that there was going to be no chance for further reform. So they're doing this now to encourage the president to show faith in his reform process.

But that doesn't mean that they will stay there if there is not going to be any constitutional reform in the medium term.

KATE ARNOTT: Despite only having 43 members in the 600 seat parliament, the National League for Democracy's role is seen as a crucial one.

MONIQUE SKIDMORE: They can call civil servants to account, they can question legislation. They can ask for a level of transparency about government facts and figures. And in doing so, throw light on cronyism, nepotism, lack of transparency, corruption, all those kinds of things.

So we will see an increasingly prominent and loud vocal voice from the NLD as they mobilise around issues that come up in parliament.

(Footage of Ban Ki-Moon shaking hands with Thein Sein)

KATE ARNOTT: It was President Thein Sein who received special mention during the UN secretary general's unprecedented speech to the Burmese parliament.

Ban Ki-moon praised him for dramatic and unexpected reforms, since taking office a year ago.

And the UN chief said the changes sweeping Burma had inspired the world.

BAN KI-MOON: I urge the international community to go even further in lifting, suspending or easing trade restrictions and other sanctions.

KATE ARNOTT: And the UN secretary general certainly holds out great hope for the future.

BAN KI-MOON: I leave Myanmar satisfied, enthusiastic and determined to help keep the momentum for reform and reconciliation going strong.

If sustained, this can put the government and people of Myanmar on the path to a better future forward. They deserve our full support every step of the way.
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