No army bashing in Myanmar polls campaign

YANGON • Myanmar has banned political parties from criticising the army, or the Constitution, in state media during campaigning for elections.

The parties standing in the Nov 8 elections will be allowed to broadcast 15-minute speeches on state television and radio, according to a statement by the Union Election Commission, and publish them in state-owned newspapers. But the addresses will be vetted by the commission and the Ministry of Information, and could be rejected if officials find that they violate the rules.

Statements "that can split the Tatmadaw, or disgrace and damage the dignity of the Tatmadaw," are banned, said the commission, using the term for the Myanmar military. Parties should not "disrespect" the 2008 Constitution, which reserves 25 per cent of Parliament and key Cabinet posts for the military, giving it an effective veto over politics.

The Constitution also bars presidential candidates with a foreign spouse or child, thus preventing Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president.

Ms Suu Kyi's late husband was British, as are her two sons. Her National League for Democracy (NLD), expected to win the elections, struck a defiant tone in response to the commission's guidelines. "We are not afraid," said Mr Win Htein, a member of the NLD's top governing body.

After ruling for 49 years, the military, in 2011, established a semi-civilian government, freed hundreds of political prisoners and opened up the economy.

The announcement by the election commission comes less than three weeks after President Thein Sein ousted the powerful chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, Mr Shwe Mann.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'No army bashing in Myanmar polls campaign'. Print Edition | Subscribe