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Burma's New Election Law Called 'A Sham'

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other activists are excluded from participation under new laws governing elections slated for later this year.

A prominent human rights group says Burma's newly issued election laws are designed to exclude the main opposition party from participation and ensure a victory for the ruling military junta.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the new election regulations issued earlier this month are designed to deny participation by opposition groups.

“It’s quite predictable," says HRW's Elaine Pearson of the apparent intent of new election laws. Pearson, the Deputy Director of HRW's Asia Division in New York, says the Burmese government's legal maneuver “continues this kind of sham political process,” she adds.

The laws bar prisoners from being members of political parties. HRW says the law effectively bans more than 2,100 political activists currently imprisoned on politically motivated charges -- including Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy.

The laws require political parties to expel members who are imprisoned or face loss of its registration credentials, a move that would remove offending parties from participation in the elections.

Various governments and organizations have denounced Burma’s new election laws, but Pearson says what is really needed is for Burma’s allies to speak out.

“The message should be coming from those that have traditionally protected Burma,” says Pearson. She calls for a response from China, India and the ASEAN organization.

Pearson says Burma's leaders should release all political prisoners and that an “inclusive” political process is necessary for the elections to be recognized as credible by the rest of the world.