Myanmar’s junta curbs political parties meeting with foreigners

Issued on: 13/08/2022 – 10:00

Bangkok (AFP) – Myanmar’s ruling junta has decided to restrict political parties from meeting with foreigners or international organizations ahead of elections expected next year.

The Southeast Asian nation has been plunged into turmoil and its economy is in tatters since the February 2021 coup that toppled the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military alleged widespread electoral fraud during the November 2020 polls that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won in a landslide, although international observers said the elections were largely free and fair.

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

“Political parties must respect the law. If they do not, their party registration will be dissolved,” the commission said in a statement.

The body also accused foreign embassies and international non-governmental organizations of interfering in the 2020 polls that resulted in fraud.

Myanmar’s political parties were scathing about the new edict.

Former NLD MP Soe Thura Tun said it 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, chairman of the People’s Party, said the announcement was unprecedented and did not bode well for the prospects of Myanmar’s upcoming elections being a genuine exercise in democracy.

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

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the international community to reject the board’s “sham elections” planned for next year.

“They can neither be free nor fair under the current conditions,” he told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh, from which he was excluded on top diplomat of the junta for its lack of negotiation with its opponents.

Earlier this month, the junta extended the state of emergency for six months, saying elections could only be held when the conflict-torn country was “stable and peaceful”.

He has previously said elections will be held and the state of emergency lifted by August 2023, extending the initial one-year deadline he announced days after the coup.

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

Suu Kyi has been detained since the coup and faces an eclectic array of charges that could see her jailed for more than 150 years.

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