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Burmese state media yesterday launched a veiled threat at Aung San Suu Kyi and her disbanded party, which has been calling for a boycott of the 7 November elections.
An article in the junta mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar said that “some people are inciting the people to refrain from voting in the elections. They are attempting to mislead the people who are walking along the road to multiparty democracy for a change of a new era with instigated words.”
It added that while a voter “can choose not to vote”, anyone who is “found guilty of inciting the people to boycott the election is liable for not more than one’s year’s prison term or a fine of up to 100,000 kyat [$US100], or both.”
The National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which is led by the 65-year-old Nobel laureate, has been touring Burma calling for citizens to boycott the vote on Sunday, which it will play no part in. The NLD was dissolved following its decision not to participate, citing laws that ban Suu Kyi from running for office.
Suu Kyi has however remained careful not to make outright calls for a boycott, instead encouraging Burmese to make their own choice on the day. On the other hand, senior colleagues, including spokesperson Nyan Win and elder, Win Tin, have been more forceful.
She is due to be released from house arrest on 13 November, but critics of the junta worry that they will find another excuse to extend her detention. The 1990 election winner has spent 15 of the past 21 years imprisoned in her lakeside home in Rangoon.
Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara last week lobbied his Burmese counterpart Nyan Win to release Suu Kyi. The two were at the 17th ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. According to Kyodo news, Nyan Win failed to give a clear response.
The calls for a boycott have split Burma’s pro-democracy movement and soured relations between the NLD and its new incarnation, the National Democratic Force (NDF), which formed in order to contest the elections.
The two traded harsh words last week as NDF spokesperson Khin Maung Swe – a former NLD Central Executive Committee member – claimed the decision not to run in the elections was not made unanimously.
Altogether 37 parties will compete on Sunday, but it is the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) that is widely tipped to win. It has more than 1,100 candidates, against the NDF’s 163.