Myanmar junta chief confirms election to be held this year

February 12th, 2010 - 4:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Yangon, Feb 12 (DPA) Myanmar military supremo Senior General Than Shwe confirmed Friday that the junta will hold a general election this year, honouring previous commitments to the international community.
“A free and fair general election will be held this year in accordance with the seven step road map,” Than Shwe said in a speech commemorating the 63rd anniversary of Union Day in the military capital of Naypyitaw, 350 km north of Yangon.

The junta’s road map lists a general election as one of the steps towards a “discipline-flourishing democracy”.

Burmese Union Day commemorates the signing of an agreement in 1947 among various Myanmar ethnic groups and factions to create the independent republic of Burma.

Now known as Myanmar, the country was granted independence from Britain after a century of colonial rule in 1948.

In Yangon, the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party used the occasion to reiterate calls for the release of all political prisoners, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, prior to the polls.

Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest, was sentenced in May to another 18 months detention, effectively preventing her participation in any elections in 2010.

The party also called for the release of NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo, who has been detained in his home for the past seven years. His detention period is due to expire Saturday.

Rumours circulated in Yangon that Tin Oo, 84, is to be released late Friday or Saturday.

“U (Mr) Tin Oo has paid dearly for his courageous opposition to military rule,” Human Rights Watch’s Asia director Brad Adams said.

“His release on schedule will be an important test of whether Burma’s generals will allow even modest pluralism before the elections this year,” he said in a statement issued from HRW’s New York headquarters.

Myanmar authorities arrested Tin Oo in May 2003 on politically motivated charges of disturbing public order after pro-government militias attacked the convoy carrying him and Suu Kyi near Depayin, in Upper Myanmar.

Tin Oo, a former military officer, was one of the founders of the NLD, which won Myanmar’s last election in 1990.

The military has denied the NLD power for the past 20 years.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962.

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