YANGON, Myanmar - The disbanded party of detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi vowed Monday to continue fighting for democracy, marking what would be its 22nd anniversary under tight police surveillance.
The National League for Democracy was dissolved by the military government earlier this year after deciding to boycott Nov. 7 elections, saying the rules governing the balloting were unfair and undemocratic.
The elections will be Myanmar's first in two decades. Critics say the polls are designed to cement nearly 50 years of military rule.
"The government has disbanded the party, but the National League for Democracy will undauntedly continue its struggle for democracy despite all the hardships," senior party member Win Tin told a cheering crowd. A former political prisoner, Win Tin was released in September 2008 after serving almost 19 years behind bars.
Suu Kyi co-founded the party amid massive pro-democracy protests in August 1988 and officially registered it on Sept. 27, 1988, after the demonstrations were violently suppressed by the junta. The party won 1990 elections by a landslide, but the results were not recognized by the military government. Suu Kyi has been jailed or under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.
On Monday, about 300 party members gathered at the home of Tin Oo, the party's other co-founder. The NLD cannot officially hold party gatherings at its Yangon headquarters after it was officially disbanded.
"We hold this ceremony to show that the National League for Democracy still exists, and we will continue to exist despite all kinds of repression," said party spokesman Nyan Win.
More than three dozen plainclothes police officers monitored the ceremony from a distance.
Party loyalists said they supported Suu Kyi's call to boycott the elections.
"I am here to show solidarity with the party," said party member Daw Nay, 88, whose granddaughter was killed during the 1988 pro-democracy protests. "I totally support the NLD's election boycott, and it is time all the people stand united with the NLD."
A group of renegade NLD members have formed a new party, the National Democratic Force, which held its own gathering Monday to announce it will field 163 candidates in the elections.
Candidates are vying for 1,157 seats, including 494 seats in Myanmar's two-chamber Union Parliament and 663 spread among 14 regional parliaments. The only party fielding candidates in almost all constituencies is the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.