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Myanmar elections neither free nor fair, Aung San Suu Kyi says

March 30, 2012 |  1:03 pm

Aung San Suu Kyi

Days before Myanmar goes to the polls, candidate and famous dissident Aung San Suu Kyi denounced "irregularities" in the upcoming parliamentary elections, saying they would be neither free nor fair.

Opposition candidates have been attacked with stones, she told reporters at a news conference.

Last month, her National League for Democracy party complained at a news conference that its candidates had been denied permission to campaign in the area of Namtee, purportedly for security reasons. The party argued that if so, the government shouldn't be holding elections in "insecure areas."

On Friday, Suu Kyi blamed Burmese officials for some of the intimidation and violence but said she would press forward with her campaign nonetheless, the Associated Press reported.

The charismatic Suu Kyi is widely expected to win a seat in the parliament, giving the former political prisoner a voice in government for the first time.

The elections are seen as a test of newfound freedoms in Myanmar, also known as Burma, a country long ruled by a military regime. Under a new government still backed by the military, Myanmar has taken some steps toward reform. Hundreds of political prisoners have been freed. A cease-fire was signed with ethnic Karen rebels.

The National League for Democracy, which was prevented from taking power when it won in a landslide more than two decades ago and was later dissolved, was allowed to register for elections.

The Obama administration formally restored U.S. diplomatic relations with Myanmar this year. The country, though small, is seen as an important place to contend against Chinese power and influence.

Reforms have only gone so far. Human Rights Watch says that the country is still imprisoning people for "peaceful acts of free expression and association" and that its new laws are still restrictive, allowing people to be detained for shouting unapproved slogans. It condemned the army for attacking villages in northern Kachin state, saying soldiers had tortured civilians, raped woman and forced children to fight.

"The government shouldn’t be given credit for allowing some freedom just because none existed before," its Asia director, Brad Adams, said this month.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: A a portrait of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is held aloft during a rally Friday  for a candidate of her National League for Democracy. Credit: Christophe Archambault / Getty Images

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