March 10, 2010 / 9:02 AM / 10 years ago

Myanmar election law puts Suu Kyi party in bind

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar’s main opposition party will have to exclude its leader, detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, if it wants to continue to operate and run in upcoming elections, under the terms of a law made public on Wednesday.

Under the second of five new election laws, being published gradually in state media, the military government is making Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and some other parties re-register within 60 days with a new election commission.

Failure to do so means they will have to fold.

But to register, they have to exclude party members who are serving prison terms. That would include Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 of the past 21 years in detention and is now serving 18 months in house detention for breaching security laws.

Many other senior NLD members are among more than 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar, according to rights activists.

“We find some of the provisions in this law very unfair and completely unacceptable. We feel sure this law will not be conducive to national reconciliation in our country at all,” NLD spokesman Nyan Win told Reuters.

Parties wanting to register will also have to give a written commitment to uphold the constitution passed in 2008, which the NLD rejects and campaigned against.

“It’s completely impossible for us,” Nyan Win said.

Most opposition parties refused to recognise the new constitution, arguing it was drafted by the military regime’s handpicked delegates with the intention of cementing the military’s grip on power, even after democratic elections.

An election is planned for this year, but no date has been set and the laws that state media started publishing on Tuesday have so far given no hint on timing.

The NLD has not said whether it would run in the election.

The forthcoming poll has been widely derided as a sham to make the country appear democratic, with the military retaining control over key ministries and institutions.

A separate law published on Tuesday said a Union Election Commission of at least five people would be formed to oversee political parties and organise the vote.

It would have the power to annul polls in places where “natural disasters or security reasons” prevented the vote from being free and fair.

Some analysts said that meant the junta could scrap polls in regions where armed separatists, who have enjoyed de facto autonomy for more than 50 years, refused to take part.

The regime wants ethnic groups to disarm, transfer their fighters to a government-run Border Guard Force (BGF) and join the political process.

UNACCEPTABLE

“The 2008 State Constitution is completely unacceptable, let alone the election laws,” said Aye Tha Aung, an ethnic politician and secretary of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament, a loose alliance of Suu Kyi’s NLD and ethic parties.

“That constitution will not bring about a lasting democracy in our country even if a free and fair election is held under it. There must be some essential prerequisite for the free and fair election. A constitution acceptable to all and release of all political prisoners are some of these things,” he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said on Monday he had written to junta supremo Than Shwe expressing concern about the lack of progress on democratic reform.

The U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Kurt Cambell, who has spreadheaded the U.S. government’s shift towards engagement with the regime, is visiting Southeast Asia from March 7 to March 17.

Myanmar is not on his itinerary, raising speculation he may not have been offered access to Suu Kyi and others.

U.S. embassy officials in Bangkok said they were unaware of any request for Campbell to visit Myanmar on this trip. (Writing by Alan Raybould; Additional reporting by Ambika Ahuja; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

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