Shan party eye 2010 elections

Jan 7, 2009 (DVB), A Shan political party that came second in the 1990 elections in Burma has requested a meeting with its imprisoned party leaders prior to elections this year, apparently with an eye to participating.

The request was made in a letter sent to the head of Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Senior General Than Shwe.

"The SPDC chairman in his independence day speech said that the upcoming elections will create a political environment where everyone can participate," said Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD) party spokesperson, Sai Lake.

"The party sees 2010 as the year when all must cooperate in bringing about Burma's democratisation and national solidarity," he added.

The letter said that the meeting should be permitted so that the SNLD can "play our part in democratisation and the national solidarity," in what could be a reference to its potential involvement in the looming elections.

The SNLD chairman, Khun Htun Oo, is currently serving a 93-year prison sentence in the remote Putao prison in northern Kachin state. He was arrested in February 2005 after holding a private meeting to discuss political transition in Burma, and is said to be in poor health.

The letter also requested a meeting with SNLD secretary Sai Nyunt Lwin, who was arrested along with Khun Htun Oo and is serving an 85-year sentence. Eight other SNLD were also handed lengthy sentences.

Burma is due this year to hold its first elections since 1990, when the SNLD won 23 seats and came in second behind Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Neither of the results were honoured, however, and the military junta has maintained a tight grip on power. Observers predict that little is likely to change this year, with the redrafted 2008 constitution appearing to guarantee continuation of military rule in the country.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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