Myanmar’s Sunday elections could be ‘political theater’

Vote raises skepticism

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The government-controlled media no longer bark out racist slurs against her for being the widow of a white British man and an “ax handle” for the CIA.

“Media coverage of the elections is heavily tilted toward the participation of the Myanmar democracy icon Ms. Suu Kyi,” said Bidhayak Das of the Asian Network for Free Elections.

In a 1990 nationwide election, Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won 392 of the 492 contested seats in parliament, which should have allowed her to become prime minister.

But the military barred her from taking office and held her under house arrest on and off for more than 15 years. She was released in November 2010.

Mr. Thein Sein said political reforms are inspiring many Myanmar exiles to return.

“Overwhelmed by the political reforms of the country, migrant Myanmar citizens are coming back home to serve the nation,” he said in a speech last week.

“Their expertise, experiences and wisdom are priceless forces for us. We are keeping the door open for the remaining national brethren. Please come back. Cooperate with us for national development. Doors are always [open] for you.”

Myanmar’s minority ethnic groups, meanwhile, remain wary, especially because many have been fighting guerrilla wars for greater autonomy or independence since the 1950s.

Since June, 20,000 ethnic-Kachin guerrillas have battled the regime in northern Myanmar, where more than 40,000 people have fled the fighting along China’s mountainous southern border.

“The suffering of Kachin people is the suffering of Myanmar people, and we all have to find a cure for these problems,” Ms. Suu Kyi said this month during a campaign visit to Kachin state, though she has not offered any solution.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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