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NEWS UPDATES 27 March 2010

Myanmar Armed Forces Day: Junta chief sets no poll date in his speech

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Myanmar's junta chief warned political parties to behave while campaigning for historic elections later this year, noting Saturday that the armed forces can take part in politics "whenever the need arises," reported the Associated Press.

In his annual national address, Senior Gen. Than Shwe maintained his silence on when Myanmar's first election in two decades will actually take place.

No date has been announced for the upcoming polls, which critics have called a sham designed to keep the military in power with the facade of an elected government.

The reclusive 77-year-old Than Shwe rarely says anything in public except at the annual Armed Forces Day parade, which lavishly showcases the military's might in the remote capital Naypyitaw. His seven-minute speech focused on the elections and the role of the army - known as the Tatmadaw - in politics.

"We, the patriotic Tatmadaw, not only defend and protect the nation and the people with our lives but take part and serve in national politics whenever the need arises," Than Shwe said, after reviewing more than 13,000 troops from inside a slowly moving convertible.

"This year's elections represent only the beginning of the process of fostering democracy," he said. Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962.

The polls will be the first since 1990, when the opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory. The junta ignored the results of that vote and has kept the Nobel Peace laureate jailed or under detention for 14 of the past 20 years.


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