06/24/2010, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Myanmar’s election (farce) continues; "silent" party rallies

Electoral Commission decrees as much in a 14-point directive. songs, slogans, banners and marches illegal, in order not to "tarnish" the country's image. Iron fist against the "political use of religion" to block other street riots. Buddhist Monk sentenced to seven years in prison.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Election Commission has declared Burmese songs, marches, flags and slogans in rallies illegal, so as not to "tarnish" the country's image. The parties that participate in the vote, therefore, may hold public meetings, but only with permission, with one week in advance notice and only if they abide by the strict rules imposed on campaigning, including "silent rallies”. Meanwhile, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) denounces the arrest of a Buddhist Monk for anti-government activities.

The gagged rallies are part of a 14-point directive released by the Commission, which regulates the registration of parties and the arrangements for conducting the vote. The government has not yet officially named the day when the elections are to be held. To participate, parties must submit at least 1,000 members enrolled on the lists within the next 90 days. So far 33 new formations have obtained government authorization, in addition to the five existing parties. Among these the main camp of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) will be missing after refusing to expel Aung San Suu Kyi a condition imposed by the military to allow participation in the elections.

The guidelines governing the vote also aim to prevent "disorder" in public places, including: government offices, organizations, factories, markets, sport centres, colleges, hospitals and religious institutions. Towards the latter, the junta has reserved "special" attention.  As well as a ban on the use and carrying of firearms the military also prohibits "exploitation of religion for political purposes". Mindful of the  2007 revolt led by Buddhist monks that ended in a bloodbath, the government wants to prevent street demonstrations that could jeopardize the control of the country.

Meanwhile the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) denounces imprisonment for anti-government activities of Monk U Gawthita. The authorities accuse him of "illegally" travelling to Thailand, to seek support among the dissident movements abroad. The court sentenced him to seven years, even in the absence of evidence. The Monk, who was not involved in the uprisings of 2007, defended himself stating that seeking aid for victims of the Cyclone Nargis.  

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