VIDEO: Myanmar Frees Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Originally posted at American Power: “Myanmar Frees Democracy Leader Aung San Suu Kyi (VIDEO).”

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The main story’s at LAT, “Myanmar Frees Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi.” I’m just blown away by the brazen and bankrupt maneuvering of the military junta, which just held the most carefully scripted elections imaginable, the first elections in 20 years. The timing of Suu Kyi’s release naturally followed the balloting, if it could be called that. To release her ahead of the vote may well have helped topple the regime in power. See WSJ from earlier this month, “Myanmar’s Muted Election: Residents Debate Importance of Sunday Vote, First in 20 Years“:

Myanmar, led by a secretive military junta regarded as one of the most oppressive in the world, is holding a closely watched–and controversial– election on Nov. 7. The government says the vote is part of a “road map to democracy” that will replace generals with civilian leaders and give the public more say in public affairs than at any time in decades.

But during a five-day visit to the country recently, across two of Myanmar’s biggest cities, the only evidence this reporter saw of the election race was a small campaign poster for an obscure ethnic party hanging on a shopkeeper’s wall in a muddy and trash-strewn Yangon outdoor market. Government television stations and newspapers featured some coverage, but it was heavily censored. It included a series of 15-minute segments in which party candidates sat at desks passively reading policy statements approved by government minders.

To the extent anyone discussed the election, it was mainly in the form of quiet whispers in tea houses or in private residences. Locals say there are small gatherings of candidates and voters. The exiled media have reported that campaign signs, mostly for the government-backed parties, appear here and there.

Some were impressed when the largest opposition party, the National Democratic Force, did take out a full-page advertisement in a private newspaper. The simple ad showed the party’s logo, a bamboo hat and a giant black check mark. In small type, it reads: “The Hope for Democracy: NDF for the People.”

Strict election rules make it tough to do more. Candidates are barred from chanting, marching, or saying anything at political events that could tarnish the state’s image. To register to run, they have to pay $500, a huge sum for average Myanmar citizens. Those restrictions–and the government’s detention of more than 2,000 critics in prison, according to human-rights groups–have left some candidates unable or reluctant to do more than quietly ask friends and allies for support.

There’s also an interactive information feature at the link.

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