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Burmese Activists Fear Extension of Army's Power

Burmese women activists fear Burma's military will be entrenched in power after elections later this year and are calling on the international community to reject the outcome. The activists made the calls as they marked Women of Burma Day and the birthday of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Fears over the transparency of Burma's national elections scheduled for this year have led to calls by Burmese political activists for the international community to boycott the election result.

The concern over the election outcome, likely to be in October, comes as Burmese and ethnic communities who support Burma's opposition parties prepare to mark the 65th birthday of opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi on June 19.

The elections, the first in 20 years, are seen by some analysts as a step forward following two decades of stagnant political progress after the military rejected results from an election in May 1990.

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) won the 1990 vote in a landslide, but the party never assumed power as the military detained dozens of opposition political leaders as well as harassing party members.

In 2008 a new constitution was pressed through by a national referendum and the government recently announced new election laws. The NLD and other ethnic groups have refused to participate in the election.

Lae Lae Nwe, a former political prisoner who served four years of a 21-year jail sentence before fleeing to Thailand, says she fears the outlook for Burma after the elections.

She says the constitution supports the military's position with the allocation of seats in a new parliament while the military's power is supported by recently announced election laws which activists say are biased against the opposition.

"We can see no justice and also the release of the election law," she said. "The election laws are not fair. I would like to say to the international community please wipe out the 2010 elections and don't support military junta."

Her comments came as rights group, the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, released a publication, Burma - Women's Voices for Peace, a compilation of writings by women of Burma who have faced rights abuses.

Lway Aye Nang, a member of the Women's League of Burma says the elections will raise concerns over the military's ongoing influence.

"The election will give legitimacy to the people to the military that they can do whatever they want in officially," she said. "So it will not change, the situation for Burma it will continue to put the people of Burma in danger."

Parties closely associated with the military, such as the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), are able to campaign while other local parties, including those linked to ethnic communities are being restricted. She says the election is not a way forward for Burma.

"People will say something is better than nothing," she added. "But this something is putting the people of Burma in danger. So at the end of the day these people from the military personnel, military community these USDA member - they will take the lead, they will take the position to rule the area like officially."

Burmese communities throughout the world, preparing to mark Augn San Suu Kyi's birthday, are stepping up calls for her release from house arrest along with the more than 2,500 political prisoners officially recorded as being detained.