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NEWS UPDATES 12 May 2010

Myanmar junta shrugs off poll monitors, asks US to be positive

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Myanmar's military leaders have rejected international poll monitors for the country's first elections in 20 years but asked for unspecified cooperation from the United States in supporting the vote, the Associated Press quoted official media as saying Wednesday.

An official urged the U.S. to "show a positive attitude" about the military-organized vote, even though American envoy Kurt Campbell had already expressed deep concerns about the elections ahead of a recent visit.

The polls, to be held sometime this year, have been sharply criticized as a means for the military to maintain its grip on power under a civilian guise.

During his trip, Campbell said that the run-up to the election so far leads the U.S. to believe the polls will "lack international legitimacy."

"We urge the regime to take immediate steps to open the process in the time remaining before the elections," he said.

Campbell asked if election monitors, possibly from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, would be allowed and was rebuffed.

"The nation has a lot of experience with elections. We do not need election watchdogs to come here," the head of the Election Commission, Thein Soe, said.

"Arrangements have been made to ensure a free and fair election," the election chief was quoted as telling Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia.

Campbell, who departed Myanmar on Monday after a two-day visit, met with several junta ministers as well as detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Details of his talks with junta officials were published in state-run newspapers Wednesday.

"We would like to receive your kind cooperation so that the election can be held peacefully and successfully," Information Minister Kyaw Hsan told Campbell without elaboration.

Kyaw Hsan said that he welcomed Washington's new policy of direct engagement with Myanmar and urged the United States to "show a positive attitude" toward the coming election.

Campbell's visit, his second in six months, came just days after the dissolution of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, or NLD, which won the 1990 election but was never allowed to take power.

The NLD considers newly enacted election laws unfair and undemocratic - since Suu Kyi and other political prisoners would be barred from taking part in the vote - and so declined to reregister as required, which meant it was automatically disbanded.

Critics say the elections will be engineered so that military officers, a number of whom have already shed their uniform to enter politics, will be assured of victory.


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