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Senior Burmese military leaders resign to take part in election

Reports had earlier suggested Gen Than Shwe would step down Photo: EPA

August 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / TELEGRAPH.CO.UK)  —  Army number three Thura Shwe Mann is among those who have stepped down ahead of the November 7 poll, although government sources denied an earlier report that Gen Than Shwe, who has ruled Burma since 1992, and his deputy Gen Maung Aye, were among those to resign.

The same source said those who had retired from the military will join the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and “will take part in the election”.

Earlier reports had suggested Gen Shwe had retired from his army post but would remain head of state.

The conflicting reports come as the country gears up for its first elections since democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was denied office by the junta after winning a landslide victory in 1990.

Critics and the West have said the upcoming vote, which will guarantee a quarter of the legislature for the army, is a sham aimed at putting a civilian mask on the junta.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate whose popularity is a thorn in the junta’s side, has been in detention for much of the last twenty years and is barred from standing in the election because she is a serving prisoner.

The NLD – which would have been the greatest threat to the junta – is boycotting the upcoming poll, saying the rules are unfair. As a result, it was forcibly disbanded by the ruling generals.

A new democratic party, the National Democracy Force (NDF), was formed by former NLD members who decided to participate in the vote although it does not have the support of Suu Kyi, who favoured a boycott.

So far around 40 political parties have been given permission to stand in the polls, but some have expressed concerns, including over intimidation of their members.

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