Myanmar’s Suu Kyi: Freedom of information needed to make upcoming elections credible

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi undecided on junta’s elections

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says that the military-run country’s upcoming elections cannot be credible unless the government allows freedom of information, her party said Wednesday.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate — who is serving a new 18-month sentence of house arrest — also said she hasn’t decided whether her party will contest this year’s planned polls, said Nyan Win, her lawyer and spokesman for her National League for Democracy party.

“Aung San Suu Kyi said if freedom of information and freedom of expression are not allowed, the elections will neither be free nor fair nor credible,” said Nyan Win, who met Suu Kyi at her house Tuesday.

Myanmar’s military government has said it will hold a general election this year, but has not yet set an exact date or passed the necessary laws. Suu Kyi’s party won the last election in 1990, but the military refused to allow it to take power.

The junta tightly controls information in the impoverished Southeast Asian country.

An election boycott by the NLD would deal a blow to the government’s promotion of the polls as part of a “roadmap to democracy.”

Suu Kyi’s party has not yet committed itself to taking part in the polls because it claims the new constitution of 2008 is unfair. It has clauses that would ensure that the military remains the controlling power in government, and would bar Suu Kyi from holding office.

Nyan Win said Wednesday that Suu Kyi said she cannot decide whether her party should take part in elections as long as she is under house arrest.

“Aung San Suu Kyi said she is in no condition to decide whether the NLD should participate in the elections or not as she cannot follow up on her decision if she remains detained,” said Nyan Win.

Suu Kyi’s position does not necessarily rule out her party taking part in the polls, since other party officials could make the decision to contest the election. Nyan Win pointed out that that in 1990 elections, which also were held while she was under house arrest, the National League for Democracy decided to take part in elections during her absence and she supported the party’s decision.

According to Nyan Win, Suu Kyi also said the international community should understand that the elections in Myanmar cannot be considered as similar to those in other countries “as everything has to start from scratch,” without any new parties being approved yet and her own party not yet allowed to reopen its district offices.

Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years, was convicted last August of violating the terms of her previous detention by briefly sheltering an American who swam uninvited to her lakeside home. She was sentenced to 18 months’ house arrest, less three months spent in detention awaiting the end of her trial.

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