Asia-Pacific

No foreign media or observers for Burma poll

Members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) wave from a campaign vehicle on 13 October 2010
Image caption The polls will be the first in Burma since 1990

Election observers and foreign journalists will not be allowed into Burma for its first polls in two decades, officials say.

The Election Commission said observers were not necessary because Burma-based diplomats could monitor the polls.

Burma-based journalists would also be sufficient to cover the election, the commission said.

Critics say the 7 November elections are a sham aimed at consolidating military rule.

"We don't need foreign observers. We have abundant experience in holding elections," Election Commission chairman Thein Soe told a press conference in the capital, Naypyitaw.

"Besides, the election laws enacted are very balanced and easy to understand."

On journalists, he said that representatives of international news agencies were resident in Burma and press statements would be released "in a timely manner", so there was no need for foreign reporters.

Most foreign journalists are banned from Burma, where domestic media is tightly controlled.

Harassment

Burmese authorities say the elections will mark a key step on their "road map to democracy".

But many outside the country say the laws under which they will be held are unfair and aimed at perpetuating military rule.

A quarter of the seats in parliament have already been reserved for the military.

Many senior military officers have also shed their uniforms so that they can campaign for election as civilians, potentially increasing the military's power in parliament.

Parties not aligned with the government have complained of harassment while campaigning.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest, has called for an election boycott.

Her party, the National League for Democracy, won the last elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power.

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