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Friday, September 24, 2010

Prisoner Suu Kyi allowed vote in Burma poll

Prisoner Suu Kyi allowed vote in Burma poll

Detained Burma pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi will be allowed vote in November's election, an election commission source said today, despite prisoners being barred from casting ballots.

Ms Suu Kyi last month advised members of her now-defunct National League for Democracy (NLD) party not to vote in the election, the first since the 1990 polls the NLD won in a landslide, a result the junta refused to recognise.

Rights groups have derided the elections as a sham designed to entrench military power in the isolated Southeast Asian state.

The NLD was effectively dissolved on September 14th after failing to register for the polls because of "unjust and unfair" laws and the regime's refusal to release political detainees.

A staff member at the election commission office in Ms Suu Kyi's Bahan Township ward, who requested anonymity, confirmed the Nobel laureate's name was on the electoral role for the November 7th polls, which her political party is boycotting.

It has long been assumed Ms Suu Kyi would be barred from taking part in any capacity since Burma's 2008 constitution states "persons serving prison terms" are prevented from voting or running as candidates.

She was found guilty last August of breaking an internal security law by allowing an American intruder to stay at her Rangoon lakeside home.

She is now serving a sentence of 18 months under house arrest and is due for release one week after the election.

Nyan Win, Ms Suu Kyi's lawyer and spokesman for the NLD, said he was baffled by her inclusion. "It's tantamount to saying that she is not a prisoner," he added.

The international community has made repeated calls for free, fair and inclusive polls and the release of Suu Kyi and an estimated 2,200 other political prisoners.

The United States last year said the polls will not be credible if Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 of the last 21 years in some form of detention, was not allowed to take part.

London-based rights group Amnesty International yesterday appealed to the government to release activists jailed for exercising their right of free speech, assembly and association.

"It beggars belief that the government can attempt to burnish its democratic credentials by holding elections, while it also holds more than 2,200 political prisoners behind bars and out of sight of the campaigns and polls", Amnesty said.


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