- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Burma’s military junta is expected to cement its grip on power Sunday in an election widely considered to be illegitimate.

Despite announcements by regime leaders that democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi will be released from house arrest in the days after the vote, sources close to her say they have not received any confirmation of this decision from the junta.

Mrs. Suu Kyi’s current period of detention expires on Nov. 13. She has been kept under house arrest by the junta for 14 of the past 20 years.

“Although there have been some rumblings that [Mrs. Suu Kyi’s release] is imminent, the situation is really unclear right now,” said Jared Genser, Mrs. Suu Kyi’s international counsel. “In my experience, you need to see what the junta does, not listen to what it says.”

Mr. Genser said that when Mrs. Suu Kyi’s domestic lawyer last saw her some weeks ago, she had not been told that her release was imminent.

The military junta is scheduled to hold Burma’s first election in two decades on Sunday. Mrs. Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) won the last election in 1990 by a landslide but was prevented from ruling by the military.

The military has implemented laws that force political parties to expel members with criminal records, including political prisoners such as Mrs. Suu Kyi.

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 2008 constitution was written by delegates handpicked by the regime and without input from the opposition.

The Obama administration does not consider the vote to be legitimate and has expressed disappointment that Mrs. Suu Kyi has been barred from participating.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he, too, does not consider the process to be legitimate. This sentiment was echoed by Jeremy Browne, Britain’s Foreign Office minister for human rights, in an interview with Channel News Asia this week.

The Burmese government has prohibited international observers and foreign journalists from monitoring or covering the elections.

State Department spokesman Noel Clay said the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon would not participate in Burmese government-sponsored “election tours” for diplomats based in the Burmese capital.

“Tightly controlled, government-sponsored tours of election activities are not a substitute for genuine election observation,” Mr. Clay said.

An international human rights group, meanwhile, said the military has stepped up intimidation of people ahead of the vote.

“Burma’s Nov. 7 elections are being conducted in a climate of fear, intimidation, and resignation,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

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