Suu Kyi poke at army banned from Myanmar state TV

AP News
|
Posted: Mar 11, 2012 5:01 AM
Suu Kyi poke at army banned from Myanmar state TV

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says government censors are not allowing her party to criticize the previous military-run governments when it promotes its policies on state-run radio and television ahead of April elections.

After decades of military repression, a nominally civilian government that was elected last year has been enacting reforms, including releasing hundreds of political prisoners, relaxing media censorship and allowing Suu Kyi to stand as a candidate for her National League for Democracy party.

However, the military is guaranteed a quarter of the seats in the country's lower house and the remainder is dominated by the main pro-military party. Under an election law brought in by the previous regime, political parties are banned from making campaign statements harmful to the military.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win said Suu Kyi's party broadcast to be taped Monday in the capital, Naypyitaw, had been approved, but a paragraph was excised under regulations that include a ban on statements harming the military's image. Her statement will be broadcast on March 14 and 22.

"The part about the lack of rule of law and about the laws enacted by successive military governments to suppress the people were censored," Suu Kyi told U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia on Saturday.

The 15-minute broadcast will be the first time the democracy icon and Nobel Peace laureate has been given the opportunity to use the state media to promote her party's platform.

Suu Kyi on Sunday campaigned in the Mon State capital of Mawlamyine, also called Moulmein, 180 miles (290 kilometers) southeast of Yangon, where thousands of supporters greeted her. She has been barnstorming the country ahead of April 1 by-elections, in which her NLD party will be contesting all 48 parliamentary seats at stake. Suu Kyi herself will be running in a constituency south of Yangon.

She told supporters her party had been established with the goal of having a democratic system take root in the country, protecting human rights and preventing the reemergence of a military dictatorship. Myanmar was under army rule from 1962 until last year.

"Frankly speaking, these things have not yet been achieved," Suu Kyi said. "We are not fully enjoying human rights and the democratic system hasn't taken root yet. It is also still unclear whether a military dictatorship will emerge again or not."

Suu Kyi's party overwhelmingly won a 1990 general election, but the military refused to allow it to take power.

The NLD boycotted a 2010 general election, saying the rules were unfair. It agreed to rejoin electoral politics last year when the new military-backed elected president, Thein Sein, began implementing democratic reforms. Although the government changed some parts of the election law to meet NLD objections, campaign regulations are still very rigid.

The 17 political parties contesting the polls were allowed to deliver their party manifestos on state radio and television starting March 7, but have to submit the text at least seven days in advance.

According to campaign regulations, the speech must not be more than seven pages long and political parties are not allowed to make statements "detrimental to non-disintegration of the Union (of Myanmar), non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty."

Statements harmful to the image of the state and the military, detrimental to security and tranquility and statements that incite service personnel are also not permitted.

Suu Kyi is rarely seen on state television, and many people watch TV with keen interest every July 19 when her picture is shown for a few seconds when she attends the annual Martyrs Day ceremony to lay a wreath at the tomb of her father, independence hero Gen. Aung San, on the anniversary of his death.

Her meetings with President Thein Sein last year and her meetings with government minister Aung Kyi, who acts as the regime's liaison official with her, were also briefly aired.

Censorship is not the only roadblock Suu Kyi's party claims to be facing.

Suu Kyi charged Thursday that official voter lists for the by-elections include dead people, opening the possibility for fraud, and she called on the international community before determining their policy toward Myanmar to watch closely how the elections proceed and how the official election commission deals with complaints of electoral irregularities.

The United States and other Western nations imposed economic and political sanctions on Myanmar due to repression under the previous military regime, but are considering easing them if Thein Sein's reforms continue.