Myanmar vote: Foreign media barred

2010-10-18 12:24
Naypyitaw – Myanmar election officials said on Monday that foreign media will not be allowed into the military-ruled country to cover its first election in 20 years on November 7.

The Election Commission also reiterated that it will not allow foreign observers to monitor the elections, which have been internationally criticised as a sham designed to cement nearly 50 years of military rule.

The commission made the announcement at its first election briefing for diplomats and Myanmar-based media in the ruling junta's remote capital, Naypyitaw.

"Representatives in Yangon who are working for foreign media can cover the elections and no foreign journalists will be allowed," Election Commission chairperson Thein Soe told the gathering.

On election day, authorities will "arrange a tour" for diplomats and UN agencies in the country, he said.

"Since these diplomats represent their respective countries, there is no need to invite foreign observers," Thein Soe said. "It is not necessary to invite foreign monitors as Myanmar has capable and experienced persons regarding the election process."

Myanmar's last election was in 1990. Foreign media were allowed into the country to cover those polls, which resulted in a landslide win for the party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta refused to recognise the results and has kept Suu Kyi locked away in prison or under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.

Unfair and undemocratic

Suu Kyi's current term of house arrest expires November 13, just six days after the elections.

Her party has denounced the polls as unfair and undemocratic and is boycotting the election, leaving the race without a strong opposition.

The main junta-backed party is the only party strong enough to field candidates in almost every constituency.

Thein Soe said that altogether 3 153 candidates, including 82 independent candidates, will contest the 1 158 seats of the Union Parliament and regional parliaments.

Out of 1 158 constituencies, 54 constituencies will have only one candidate and will automatically win so are, therefore, not required to hold elections in those areas, he said.

The chairperson said there will be more than 29 million eligible voters and 40 000 polling stations in the country.

Asked to comment on remarks by the international community that the elections are not credible, Thein Soe replied: "The elections will be held for this country and in accordance with the rules of the country and we do not need to make clarification on the credibility of the election."

- AP
Read more on:    aung san suu kyi  |  myanmar
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