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Asia-Pacific
Myanmar ministers 'quit army'
Senior members of military removing uniforms to stand in November 7 polls, official says.
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2010 07:38 GMT
The upcoming polls will guarantee a quarter of the legislature for the army [EPA]

At least 15 senior military figures in Myanmar have retired from their posts to stand in the country's November 7 polls, an unnamed official said.

The resignations pave the way for the military leaders to assume the most powerful roles in the country following the nation's first general election in 20 years.

Media reports had said Than Shwe, the head of the army, would be among those stepping down, along with his deputy Maung Aye.

But a government source denied those reports.

"The senior general and vice-senior general remain at their position," the official told the AFP news agency.

Thura Shwe Mann, the third most powerful member of the military, is also said to be stepping down.

Government reshuffle

The official said those who had retired from the military will join the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and "will take part in the election".

IN DEPTH

 Profile: Aung San Suu Kyi
 Myanmar's quest for democracy
 Scepticism over Myanmar polls
 Myanmar opposition to be dismantled
 High cost of Myanmar's isolation 
 Myanmar's military ambitions

Thein Sein, the country's prime minister, and other ministers stepped down from the military in April to contest the election as the USDP party.

Thura Shwe Mann, the army's number three leader, is likely to stand as a candidate in one of the constituencies in the administrative capital of Naypyidaw.

However, the reshuffle was not officially announced by local media, and state television was silent on the subject.

Conflicting reports have also emerged, such as a piece on the Irrawaddy website, run by an exile group, that Than Shwe - who has ruled the impoverished country with an iron fist since 1992 - retired his army post but would remain head of state.

Intimidation concerns

The conflicting reports come as the country prepares for its first elections since opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) was denied office by the government after winning a landslide victory in 1990.

Critics say the upcoming vote, which will guarantee a quarter of the legislature for the army, is a sham aimed at putting a civilian mask on the military.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, has been in detention for much of the last 20 years and is barred from standing in the election because she is a serving prisoner.

The NLD is boycotting the upcoming poll, saying the rules are unfair. As a result, it was forcibly disbanded by the ruling generals.

A new party - the National Democracy Force (NDF) - was formed by former NLD members who decided to participate in the vote although it does not have the support of Suu Kyi, who favoured a boycott.

So far around 40 political parties have been given permission to stand in the polls, but some have expressed concerns, including over intimidation of their members.

Myanmar has been the focus of international concern in recent weeks, with Western nations dismissing the planned election as not free and fair.

Source:
Agencies
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