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Suu Kyi barred from joining political parties

US swift to condemn enactment of new law that effectively bans her from leading her own party in upcoming elections

It will be a very big problem for us, as they asked us to obey a constitution that we cannot accept."

US calls election law 'disappointing'

KUALA LUMPUR – Myanmar election laws that bar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from standing in polls this year are not what the United States was hoping for, US envoy Kurt Campbell said Wednesday. “I think it would be fair to say what we have seen so far is disappointing and regrettable,” Campbell told a press conference during a visit to Malaysia, part of a tour of Southeast Asia. Campbell reiterated calls for the release of Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 14 of the 20 years since the military junta annulled 1990 elections which her National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a
landslide. “We stand by our continuing statements about having her released and playing an active and full role inside the country,” he said. “We want her to play an active role in the political life of the country going forward.” The US has led calls from governments and human rights groups for the Myanmar junta to ensure the credibility of elections planned for this year by making the process fair and inclusive. “We would like to see steps taken by the government to encourage domestic dialogue in anticipation and in advance of the elections,” Campbell said. AFP

YANGON – Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi faces expulsion from her own party and is barred from standing in elections this year under the military government’s new election laws unveiled Wednesday.

In a move swiftly branded “disappointing and regrettable” by the United States, the regime said in a law printed for the first time in state newspapers that anyone serving a prison term cannot be a member of a political party.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) – which won Myanmar’s last elections in 1990 but was stopped from taking power by the junta – would in turn be abolished if it failed to obey the rules.

The Nobel Peace laureate was sentenced to three years’ jail in August over an incident in which an American man swam to her lakeside home. Suu Kyi’s sentence was commuted by junta supremo Than Shwe to 18 months under house arrest.

“I have noticed that we have to expel Daw Suu. Their attitude is clear in this law,” NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP, using a respectful form of address to refer to Suu Kyi.

“I was extremely surprised when I saw this. I did not think it would be so bad.”

The Political Parties Registration Act also gives the NLD just 60 days from Monday, when the law was enacted, to register as a party if it wants to take part in the elections, or else face dissolution.

“The NLD also needs to reply clearly, but I cannot say how we will respond,” Nyan Win said.

Critics have dismissed the polls, which Than Shwe has promised to hold at a still-unspecified date this year, as a sham aimed at legitimising the military’s nearly five-decade grip on power.

The 64-year-old Suu Kyi has been in detention for 14 of the the 20 years since the previous elections.

She was already barred from standing as a candidate under a new constitution approved in a 2008 referendum that stipulates that those married to foreigners are ineligible. Her husband, British academic Michael Aris, died in 1999.

“What I can say now is the law is meant to safeguard the constitution. It will be a very big problem for us, as they asked us to obey a constitution that we cannot accept,” Nyan Win added.

The new law effectively also prevents more than 2,100 political prisoners from taking part in the elections.

It also explicitly bars people from any religious order – including Buddhist monks – and members of the civil service from standing as candidates.
Monks led mass anti-junta protests in 2007, which the regime suppressed with the loss of at least 31 lives.

The act is the second of five laws to have been enacted on Monday ahead of the polls, for which the junta has given no date but which are expected to be in October or November.

The first law stipulates that the regime itself will hand-pick members of the electoral commission.

Aung Din from the US Campaign for Burma, which uses Myanmar’s former name, urged worldwide action in response to the new laws.

“Now, the ball is in the court of the United Nations, United States and the international community, who have been repeatedly calling for the regime to make an inclusive, free and fair election,” said Aung Din.

Win Min, a Myanmar analyst based in Thailand, said party law was in some ways more of an attack on the NLD than on Suu Kyi.

“Than Shwe does not want the NLD to run for the elections. And it will be very difficult for them – they need to expel Aung San Suu Kyi and the other detained members, and they need to agree on the 2008 constitution,” he said. AFP

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