Burma elections to be held 'in October'

Jan 8, 2010 (DVB), Elections in Burma could be held in October this year, according to information leaked from a meeting between the head of a Japanese charity and Burma's agriculture minister.

The revelation follows a visit to Japan in August last year by agriculture minister Htay Oo, who also heads a proxy organization of the Burmese junta, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).

Whilst there he met with the politically influential Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, Japan's largest charity. Htay Oo had reportedly visited Japan to observe elections there.

A Japanese source, speaking to DVB on condition of anonymity, said that Htay Oo had told Sasakawa that Burma's elections would be held in October this year. The source also said that Japan had offered technical assistance in conducting the elections.

The revelation was then corroborated following a visit to Burma last October by the executive director of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF), Seki Akinori, who is believed to have met with senior government ministers. The SPF was set up by Sasakawa.

There Akinori was also told that elections would be held in October this year, according to the source.

The Tokyo-based Asahi Shimbun newspaper, who carried a similar report yesterday, said that the electoral and political party laws will be disseminated in April, around the time of Burmese New Year.

The report also said that the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party would be recognized as legitimate participants in the election in order to placate pressure from the international community.

A junta source told Asahi Shimbun however that Burma's military rulers believe that restrictions placed on the party, coupled with the ongoing house arrest of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, would significantly weaken their chances of any success.

Details on the elections have to date been shrouded in mystery, although junta chief Than Shwe confirmed earlier this week that they would take place some time this year.

The NLD has not yet announced whether it will participate, and has demanded a revision of the 2008 constitution, which appears to guarantee a continuation of military rule in Burma.

Reporting by DVB

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