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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs  19 October 2010

Foreign monitors, media barred from Myanmar election

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Myanmar said on Monday that foreign election observers and international media would not be allowed into the country for next month's election, a move seen by critics as a sham to entrench military rule.

The ban is certain to add to international concerns that the November 7 poll will lack legitimacy, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi locked up and one quarter of the seats in parliament reserved for the military.

Foreign diplomats and United Nations representatives based in Myanmarwill be allowed to observe voting, said election commission chairman Thein Soe.

But there is no need for foreign poll monitors because "our country has a lot of experience in elections," he said in a briefing to diplomats and media in the capital.

"We are holding the election for this country," Thein Soe added. "It's not for other countries."

No photography or filming would be allowed inside polling stations to enable voters to "cast their votes freely," he said, adding that ballots would be counted "in front of voters."

More than 29 million people - roughly half the official population - will be eligible to cast a ballot, with 3,071 candidates from 37 parties contesting the election.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962 and activists and Western governments say the poll is aimed at simply giving the junta's hold on power a civilian facade.

Suu Kyi's party won the last general election in Myanmar in 1990 but was never allowed to take power, and the democracy icon has spent most of the two decades since in detention.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner's current term of house arrest is due to expire on Nov. 13, just days after the election.

Myanmar's Supreme Court held a hearing on Monday to consider Suu Kyi's latest appeal against her detention, but did not announce a decision on whether to consider the application.

"We have to wait about two weeks for the judgment," said her lawyer, Nyan Win. "We are satisfied with our arguments. We're hoping they will accept the case."

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