Aung San Suu Kyi to be barred from party, polls

YANGON: Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi faces expulsion from her own party and is barred from standing in polls this year under the military junta’s new election laws, a spokesman said today.

In a move that sparked outrage from rights activists, the regime said in the new political parties registration act published today that anyone serving a prison term cannot be a party member for the polls.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy — which won the country’s last elections in 1990 but was stopped from taking power by the military — would in turn be abolished if it failed to obey the rules.

The Nobel Peace laureate was sentenced to three years in jail in August over an incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside home. Suu Kyi’s sentence was commuted by junta supremo Than Shwe to 18 months under house arrest.

“I have noticed that we have to expel Daw Suu. Their attitude is clear in this law,” NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP, using a respectful form of address to refer to Suu Kyi.

“I was extremely surprised when I saw this, I did not think it would be so bad.” Critics have dismissed the polls, which Than Shwe has promised to hold at a still unspecified date this year, as a sham aimed at legitimising and entrenching the military’s nearly five-decade grip on power.

Suu Kyi was already barred from standing as a candidate under a new constitution approved in a 2008 referendum, due to a clause stipulating that those married to foreign nationals are not eligible.

Her husband, British academic Michael Aris, died in 1999.

The 64-year-old has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years since the previous elections.

The new law, details of which were printed in state-run newspapers, also gives the NLD just 60 days from Monday when the law was enacted to register as a party if it wants to take part in the elections or face dissolution.

“The NLD also needs to reply clearly but I cannot say how we will respond,” Nyan Win said.

“What I can say now is the law is meant to safeguard the constitution. It will be a very big problem for us as they asked us to obey a constitution that we cannot accept,” he added.

The new law effectively also bans more than 2,100 political prisoners being held in jails across Myanmar from taking part in the elections.

It also explicitly bars people from any religious order — including Buddhist monks — and members of the civil service from standing as candidates.

Buddhist monks led mass anti-junta protests in 2007, which the regime suppressed with the loss of at least 31 lives.

The act is the second of five laws to have been enacted on Monday ahead of the polls, for which the junta has given no date but which are expected to be in October or November.

The first law stipulates that the regime itself will hand-pick members of the electoral commission.