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ASEAN Secretary-General Hopes Burma's Elections Mark New Stage


The secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations says he hopes Burma's elections next month will offer a chance for national reconciliation, noting that the poll must be accepted as legitimate by most Burmese people.

ASEAN's Surin Pitsuwan also says he hopes the vote will help end Burma's international isolation and halt its conflicts with other countries about its human rights record.

Human rights groups and some Western countries have called the November 7 parliamentary election a sham aimed at ensuring continued military rule. The military is guaranteed a quarter of the seats in the new parliament.

Strict elections laws have prevented several political parties, including Burma's leading opposition group, the National League for Democracy, from participating in the vote. The government also will not set up polling stations in some border regions controlled by ethnic miltias.

The elections are Burma's first since 1990. The National League for Democracy won a landslide victory then but was prohibited by the country's military rulers from taking power.

The party, led by detained Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was disbanded by the government in May after it failed to register for the November 7 election.

Aung San Suu Kyi said this week she will not vote in the election, even though the country's military rulers have put her name on the list of eligible voters. She is serving an 18-month home detention sentence and is scheduled to be released six days after the election.

Thirty-seven political parties are participating in the election for 1,157 seats, including 494 in Burma's Union Parliament and the rest in regional parliaments. The National League for Democracy has urged its supporters to boycott the poll.

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