BANGKOK: Myanmar’s ruling junta has decided to prevent political parties from meeting with foreigners or international organizations ahead of elections scheduled for next year.
The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil and its economy has been in tatters since the February 2021 coup that toppled the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military alleged widespread voter fraud in November 2020 polls that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory, although international observers said the election was largely free and fair.
The junta-appointed Union Electoral Commission said on Friday that the country’s 92 registered political parties would have to seek permission if they wanted to meet with foreign organizations or individuals.
“Political parties must abide by the law. If they fail to do so, their party’s registration will be dissolved,” the commission said in a statement.
The body also accused foreign embassies and international non-governmental organizations of interference in the 2020 elections resulting in fraud.
Political parties in Myanmar were 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’s 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 true exercise in democracy.
“We believe that their action will cause major damage to the confidence of the Burmese people 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 urged the international community to reject the junta’s “mock elections” scheduled for next year.
“They can’t be free or fair under present conditions,” he told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh. , from which the head of diplomacy of the junta was excluded for his inability to negotiate with his 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 previously said elections would be held and the state of emergency lifted by August 2023, extending the original one-year deadline he announced days after the coup.
Last year he quashed the 2020 poll results, saying he had uncovered more than 11 million cases of alleged voter fraud.
Suu Kyi has been detained since the coup and faces an eclectic series of charges that could see her imprisoned for more than 150 years.

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