7 Nov 2010

Observers banned as Myanmar holds election

10:03 pm on 7 November 2010

The people of Myanmar are voting in the country's first election in two decades.

Up to 29 million people are eligible to vote in the election - the first since Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won in a landslide in 1990.

The result was ignored by the ruling generals and Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the intervening period under house arrest, with the country under military rule.

She has recommended a boycott of the ballot but the junta says people must cast their votes, the ABC reports.

Already there are widespread allegations of vote-rigging, and the internet and phones have been intermittently cut.

Foreign media and observers have been banned.

Voter turnout appears to be low.

The BBC reports that in some areas voters have been allowed to cast their ballot secretly, but that in other more rural districts there are reports of intimidation and also suggestions that advance voting could give the generals the chance to skew the result.

International reaction

US President Barack Obama told students in Mumbai that the elections will be anything but free and fair.

"For too long the people of Burma have been denied the right to determine their own destiny", he said.

In Australia for ministerial talks, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the elections again expose the abuses of the country's military rulers.

Mrs Clinton said the people of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) deserved better.

"We hope that perhaps out of these elections some leaders will emerge who know that Burma has to take a different track, that they cannot continue to do the same thing, and realise the potential of their people," she said.

EU ambassador David Lipman said that people were voting in a calm atmosphere with no visible presence either of the army or police.

British ambassador to Burma Andrew Heyn told the BBC that the military government had missed a chance.

"There was a real chance here to put Burma on to a different track, both in terms of a path to democracy and to national reconciliation. And that part, that opportunity, has been badly missed. The result has been a process which is in no way free, fair nor inclusive."