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Burma's Supreme Court Refuses Democracy Party's Petition

Burma's opposition National League for Democracy says the Supreme Court has refused to hear its petition against the party's dissolution. That means the NLD will cease to exist as a political party under the military government's controversial election laws.

A spokesman for the National League for Democracy Thursday said the Supreme Court would not even consider the petition.

Nyan Win says a court director told them the election laws are clear and so the complaint about the laws has no merit. But, he says, it appears the court staff, not the judges, made the decision.

"He said the judges didn't know anything about this application. So, this is the main flaw we see," he said.

The election laws passed earlier this year require all parties to expel political prisoners from their ranks and to register to take part in elections expected later this year.

Parties that fail to do so by Thursday will legally cease to exist.

The NLD refused to comply and will be disbanded.

Its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been under house arrest for most of the past two decades. Scores of other NLD members have been imprisoned for opposing the military government.

The NLD won Burma's last elections in 1990 but the military ignored the results. Many opposition politicians fled to Thailand and formed a government in exile.

Zinn Lin, NLD's spokesman, says Burma's legal system is controlled by military leader General Than Shwe.

"They have to listen to General Than Shwe. He is the only one who call[s] the shot[s] at this moment. So, I think the Supreme Court is just a showcase," he said.

Burma's election plans are heavily criticized by the international community and activists as a sham designed to keep the military in power.

The election laws also require parties to ignore the 1990 elections and support the military-drafted constitution, which guarantees it a quarter of all parliamentary seats.

Scores of officers last week quit their military posts so they can run for the remaining seats.

Despite being banned from politics, NLD spokesman Nyan Win says its members will continue aiding political prisoners and others persecuted for their beliefs.

He says the party also will file an objection directly to the chief judge of the Supreme Court within a week.