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Burma’s detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi Thursday called on her people to respond to an “unjust” election law issued by the junta that bars her from the vote, her lawyer said.
Under the laws enacted Monday, which have sparked international anger, Suu Kyi faces exclusion from her own National League for Democracy (NLD) and is prevented from standing in the elections expected in October or November.
“The people and political forces have to respond united to such an unjust law,” Suu Kyi said according to her lawyer and NLD spokesman Nyan Win, after he visited the democracy icon, who has been locked up for 14 of the last 20 years.
“She didn’t think such a repressive law would come out,” he told AFP, adding that her disposition was “more cheerful” than expected during the meeting.
Under the legislation — slammed as a “mockery” by the United States — the Nobel Peace Laureate is not allowed to run in the election on the grounds that she is a serving prisoner.
On Thursday Burma’s ruling junta also unveiled on state television its handpicked election commission to oversee the polls, leading to criticism from rights groups that the body would not be impartial.
It cited an order signed by General Tin Aung Myint Oo, the number five in the junta hierarchy, and named the chairman of the new commission as Thein Soe, without giving further details.
The new laws also officially annul the result of Burma’s last elections in 1990, which the NLD won by a landslide. The junta never allowed the party to take power.
But in a surprise move, authorities permitted the reopening of around 300 NLD offices which were shut after an attack by a pro-junta mob on Suu Kyi’s motorcade in May 2003 which left dozens of people dead.
“They have not yet informed our party headquarters but the authorities have informed regional and divisional offices that they can reopen,” Nyan Win said.
The new laws give parties just 60 days from Monday to decide whether to register, but the NLD has not yet said if it will do so.
Suu Kyi’s house arrest was extended by 18 months in August after she was convicted over an incident in which a US man swam to her home.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon Wednesday renewed his appeal to the junta to free the 64-year-old and let her take part in the elections and Britain expressed “regret” over Suu Kyi’s exclusion.
The United States, which has imposed heavy sanctions on Burma but recently launched a policy of increased engagement with the regime, reacted angrily to the new laws.
“The political party registration law makes a mockery of the democratic process and ensures the upcoming election will be devoid of credibility,” US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Wednesday.
The Philippines on Thursday described the law affecting Suu Kyi as a “farce”, becoming the first member of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to publicly comment. The group includes Burma.
But China, which has huge investments in neighbouring Burma, said the laws were a matter for Burma alone.
“These are the internal affairs of Myanmar [Burma], which need to be properly resolved by the government and people of Myanmar,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang.
Analysts said the laws proved that the elections were mainly aimed at legitimising and entrenching the generals’ grip on power and were a “survival strategy”.
“Accordingly, it is almost sure that the 2010 elections will not achieve genuine democracy in Myanmar,” Toshihiro Kudo, from the Institute of Developing Economies in China, Japan, said in emailed comments.