N. Korea Says Ready for Both Dialogue and War with US

YANGON

MYANMAR’S junta has allowed the party of Aung San Suu Kyi to reopen offices closed since 2003 as international anger grew on Thursday over new laws barring the opposition icon from elections this year.

The US slammed the legislation as a “mockery”, while UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed to Myanmar’s military regime to free Suu Kyi and let her take part in the country’s first polls in two decades.

Under the laws enacted Monday, Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi faces exclusion from her own National League for Democracy and is prevented from standing in the elections, expected in October or November.

In a surprise move, Myanmar’s rulers permitted the reopening of around 300 NLD offices which were shut after an attack by a pro-junta mob on Suu Kyi’s motorcade in May 2003 which left dozens of people dead.

“They have not yet informed our party headquarters but the authorities have informed regional and divisional offices that they can reopen,” NLD spokesman Nyan Win said Thursday.

He said that around 100 of the offices had already reopened and that the rest would follow suit.

Details of the five election laws passed by the junta have been released in state media during the past week.

The latest law to be published officially annuls the result of the country’s last elections in 1990. The NLD won those polls by a landslide but the junta never allowed the party to take power.

“The result of the multi-party democracy elections, held under a deleted law, is automatically abolished as it is not in accordance with the constitution,” said the law.

The 64-year-old Suu Kyi has been in prison or under house arrest for 14 of the last 20 years since those elections.

She was sentenced to three years’ jail in August over an incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside home, but her sentence was commuted by junta supremo Than Shwe to 18 months under house arrest.

Under the new laws, anyone serving a prison term is not allowed to be a member of a political party and parties contravening that regulation can be dissolved.

The law also gives parties 60 days from Monday to register, meaning that the NLD must decide quickly whether it will expel Suu Kyi and contest the elections or pull out of the process.

The laws sparked anger from western nations which have imposed heavy sanctions on Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma.

“The political party registration law makes a mockery of the democratic process and ensures the upcoming election will be devoid of credibility,” US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Wednesday.

“This is not what we had suggested to the Burmese government,” Crowley told reporters when asked where the new laws left President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Myanmar’s rulers.

Britain expressed “regret” over Suu Kyi’s exclusion from the polls.

The UN’s Ban renewed his call for Myanmar to “ensure an inclusive political process leading to fair, transparent and credible elections in which all citizens of Myanmar, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, can freely participate,” his office said in a statement.

Rights groups also reacted angrily to the new laws.

“The Myanmar authorities should immediately release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and remove restrictions on their political activity,” said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s Myanmar researcher.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the law showed the junta’s “contempt for the democratic process.”

Myanmar’s Asian neighbours have however remained quiet over the laws.

China and India have huge investments in Myanmar, while the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, says it is trying to bring about reform through engagement with the regime.

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