Yangon: Myanmar`s state-run press on Wednesday warned
"subversives" that anyone who disrupts the country`s first
elections in two decades could face up to 20 years in prison.
Ahead of the polls, the ruling military junta has passed
numerous laws and rules criticized by detained opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the international community as
undemocratic and unfair.
The new laws effectively bar Suu Kyi and other political
prisoners - estimated at more than 2,000 - from taking part in
the elections. Tight rules for campaigning bar parties from
chanting, marching or saying anything at rallies that could
tarnish the country`s image. Critics have called the elections
a sham designed to cement 50 years of military rule.
A commentary in The New Light of Myanmar newspaper,
published as a series yesterday and today, said the government
is working to ensure stable, peaceful and successful polls and
that such laws are necessary because "there may be acts by
subversives to disrupt elections."
The article`s author was identified only as "A Law
Analyst." Commentaries in Myanmar`s tightly controlled
newspapers are viewed as reflections of the junta`s views.
Suu Kyi`s opposition party, the National League for
Democracy, decided to boycott the balloting and has been
disbanded. Activists inside and outside the country have
launched a quiet "no vote" campaign, with pamphlets
distributed anonymously with that slogan.
The commentary noted that according to the new election
laws, electoral crimes are punishable by a year in prison and
a fine, and that a harsh 1996 "Law Protecting the Peaceful and
Systematic Transfer of State Responsibility" is still in
The law provides for five to 20 years in prison for
anyone who "incites, delivers speech or makes oral or written
statements that undermine the stability of the state,
community peace and tranquility and prevalence of law and
order." Any organization that violates the law can be
Renegade members of Suu Kyi`s disbanded party have formed
a new group, the National Democratic Force, to carry the
party`s mantle in the vote. Suu Kyi has expressed
dissatisfaction through her lawyer with the formation of the
new breakaway party.