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Latest update : 2010-10-18

Burma will not allow any foreign election observers or international media into the country for its first poll in two decades, the head of the election commission said Monday.

AFP - Myanmar said Monday it would not allow foreign election observers or media into the country for next month's election, which critics say is a sham designed to legitimise military rule.

"Regarding foreign observers coming here, our country has a lot of experience in elections," said election commission chairman Thein Soe.

He said foreign diplomats and representatives from UN organisations based inside Myanmar would be allowed to observe voting in the November 7 poll.

"The diplomats are representatives of their countries. So we assume that it's not necessary to allow other countries to observe separately."

Overseas journalists would not be allowed into Myanmar for the vote because foreign news agencies already have staff based there, Thein Soe said in a briefing to diplomats and media in the capital.

No photography or filming would be allowed inside the polling stations to enable voters to "cast their votes freely," he said.

More than 29 million people will be eligible to vote across 40,000 polling stations, with 3,071 candidates from 37 parties contesting the vote.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962 and activists and Western governments say the November 7 election is aimed at simply entrenching the generals' hold on power behind a civilian facade.

Detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party won the last election in 1990 but was never allowed to take power, and the democracy icon has spent most of the past two decades in detention.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner's current term of house arrest is due to expire on November 13, just days after the election.

Myanmar's Supreme Court held a hearing Monday to consider Suu Kyi's latest appeal against her detention, but did not announce a decision on whether to consider the application.

"We have to wait about two weeks for the judgement," said Suu Kyi's lawyer Nyan Win. "We are satisfied with our arguments. We're hoping they will accept the case."

Suu Kyi lodged the last-ditch appeal in May. She has already had her appeal rejected twice, most recently by the Supreme Court in February. Court verdicts in the army-ruled country rarely favour opposition activists.

Even if she is released, observers believe the pro-democracy leader is unlikely to be allowed full freedom to conduct political activities.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party has been dissolved by the authorities because it chose to boycott next month's vote, saying the rules were unfair.

One quarter of the seats in parliament are reserved for the military, while the junta's proxy parties are seen as having a major advantage in the contest for the remaining seats.

Thein Soe denied the election rules were tilted in favour of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, led by Prime Minister Thein Sein, who retired from his military post earlier this year.

"We have no big parties nor small parties. All are the same. If the party is registered, this party will get its rights," Thein Soe said.

Last month the junta announced it was scrapping voting in swathes of insurgency-plagued ethnic areas -- a move criticised as excluding millions from a poll already seen as undemocratic.

"There are armed groups in some areas," said Thein Soe. We assume that there can be some pressure from them to favour certain parties... That's why we do not hold the election in these places."

Date created : 2010-10-18


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