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Myanmar junta restricts meetings of political parties with foreigners

#Myanmar #junta #restricts #meetings #political #parties #foreigners

Myanmar’s ruling junta has moved to bar political parties from meeting with foreigners or international organizations ahead of elections expected next year.

The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since a coup in February 2021 that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and its economy is in tatters.

The military claimed widespread voter fraud during the November 2020 polls, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide, although international observers said the election was largely free and fair.

The junta-staffed Union Electoral Commission said on Friday that the country’s 92 registered political parties would have to ask permission if they wanted to meet foreign organizations or individuals.

“Political parties must respect the law. If they fail to do so, their party’s registration will be terminated,” the commission said in a statement.

The panel also accused foreign embassies and international non-governmental organizations of interfering in the 2020 election, which led to fraud.

Political parties in Myanmar have been scathing about the new edict.

Former NLD MP Soe Thura Tun said she was undemocratic and did not respect the right to freedom of association.

“It is not appropriate to restrict them (political parties),” he told AFP on Saturday.

Ko Ko Gyi, leader of the People’s Party, said the announcement was unprecedented and did not bode well for the prospects of Myanmar’s next elections being a real exercise in democracy.

“We believe their action will do great damage to the confidence of the people of Myanmar and the international community in the upcoming elections and the democratic system,” he told AFP on Saturday.

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the international community to oppose the junta’s “sham” elections planned for next year.

“They cannot be free or fair under the current conditions,” he said at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh, from which the junta’s top diplomat was expelled for failing to negotiate with his opponents .

Earlier this month, the junta extended the state of emergency by six months, saying elections could only go ahead if the conflict-torn country was “stable and peaceful”.

It has previously said elections would be held and the state of emergency lifted by August 2023 – extending the original one-year deadline it announced days after the coup.

Last year it annulled the results of the 2020 polls, saying it had uncovered more than 11 million cases of suspected voter fraud.

Suu Kyi has been imprisoned since the coup and faces a multitude of charges that could see her imprisoned for more than 150 years.

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