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Opposition party to decide on elections

Burma’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party is to convene a plenary meeting with 120 senior members at the end of this month where they will likely decide on whether to run for elections this year.

The elections are beset by controversy, not least because detained NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from participating.

Election laws announced last week also state that her party must expel Suu Kyi if it wants to compete, and officially annul the result of Burma’s last elections in 1990, which the NLD won by a landslide.

The party’s 20-strong Central Executive Committee (CEC) met yesterday to formalise plans to hold the plenary meeting on 29 March, which will incorporate another 108 Central Committee (CC) members.

“We called a special joint CEC-CC meeting and discussed the laws recently announced by the [government] which are very crucial for us,” said CEC member Ohn Kyaing. “We brainstormed ways to make our stand and what to do.”

He said that the plenary meeting will include party members from different administrative regions in Burma and will decide on whether to register the party for elections, rumoured to be in October this year.

He added that the majority of the NLD’s 300 offices have been reopened and work had resumed after permission was granted by the government. The offices were closed in the wake of the 2003 Depayin massacre, in which 70 NLD supporters were beaten to death by a junta-backed mob.

But the government’s decision to allow the offices to reopen appears to conflict with election laws that much of the international community has condemned for the severe restrictions they place on opposition contenders.

The Philippines’ foreign secretary Alberto Romulo yesterday said that the laws were “contrary to the ‘road map to democracy’ that they [Burmese junta] pledged to [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and to the world”.

He added that he would directly press his Burmese counterpart, Nyan Win, during a meeting this week in Manila of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).


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