News / Asia

Burma's Military Government Finalizes Election Laws

Laws will set out rules on how Burma's 1st parliamentary elections in 20 years will be carried out later this year.

Burma's military government has finalized laws for historic elections to take place sometime later this year.  But Burma's government in exile says the constitution is undemocratic and elections will not be free and fair without the release of political prisoners.

Burma's state media announced the passing of long-awaited election laws, but gave no date for the elections.

The short announcements on government-controlled radio and television gave few details on the laws, but said more information would follow.

The laws will set out the rules on how Burma's controversial parliamentary elections, the first in 20 years, will be carried out later this year.

Zin Linn is a spokesman for Burma's government in exile. He says the election laws are not important without a change in the constitution.

"The issue is, it is not the election, but the issue today is the 2008 Constitution. In this constitution, you know, there are many clauses (that) are undemocratic," he said.

Burma's military government forced changes to the constitution that critics say guarantees its continued rule, regardless of elections.

Rights groups say Burma's more than 2,100 political prisoners, including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, must be released for elections to be free and fair.

Amnesty International Burma researcher Benjamin Zawacki says the international community cannot accept election results while Burma has so many political prisoners, many of them opposition supporters.

"I think they need to set a very clear benchmark and send a very clear signal that unless these political prisoners are released the elections will not be legitimate and therefore we will not simply deal with the government that results from these elections," said Zawacki.

The constitution also bars Burma's detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running in the elections.  Her National League for Democracy has not yet decided if they will participate.  The NLD won Burma's last elections in 1990 by a landslide but Burma's military ignored the results.

The military has kept Aung San Suu Kyi locked up for most of the time since.

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