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Shut-out activists in Burma seek Obama’s help
Ask him to reject closed elections
In a series of e-mail interviews with The Washington Times, members of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party — National League for Democracy (NLD) — said the Obama administration must tell the junta it considers illegitimate a vote that excludes the pro-democracy opposition.
Win Tin, an adviser to Mrs. Suu Kyi and a founder of NLD, said from Burma that while the NLD welcomes direct engagement between the Obama administration and the junta, “I believe that a more assertive policy is needed.”
Win Tin was a political prisoner in his country from 1989 to 2008.
Burma’s military rulers have enacted election laws that force parties to expel members with criminal records, including political prisoners such as Mrs. Suu Kyi, who has been kept under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years. There are more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma, according to Human Rights Watch.
Parties also are required to swear allegiance to the 2008 constitution, under which the military is guaranteed a quarter of the seats in the lower house of parliament and one-third in the upper house regardless of the outcome of the vote.
The laws forced NLD to choose to expel its senior leaders or disband. The party decided to boycott the vote, and the country’s ruler, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, dissolved the NLD in May for refusing to register under the laws.
The government has yet to announce a date for the elections, but it is widely expected that they will be held Oct. 10 — 10/10/10 — given the junta’s obsession with numbers.
“I do believe that [President] Obama's administration should engage the junta with the strongest pressure,” said Tin Oo, who was released by the junta in February after spending nearly seven years in prison and under house arrest.
Nyo Ohn Myint, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NLD (Liberated Area), said from Thailand that the junta’s first priority is “exclusion of potential opposition regardless of international condemnation.”
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to freely discuss developments in Burma, said the Obama administration is “extremely disappointed by the recently announced election laws in Burma that have effectively excluded important political parties, including the NLD, from the political process and prohibited Aung San Suu Kyi from participating.”
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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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