Role for civilians in Myanmar welcomed

Oct. 28, 2010 at 11:36 AM

HANOI, Vietnam, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Despite an international uproar, scholars on Myanmar said even a small role for civilians in the reclusive military government is a step in the right direction.

Myanmar has a general election next month for the first time in two decades. Authorities told members of the international community at last month's U.N. General Assembly meeting that more than 30 parties were to take part in the election.

The military, however, is guaranteed a portion of the seats in parliament, prompting observers to say the election is far from inclusive.

Bridget Welsh, a scholar on Myanmar at the Singapore Management University, told al-Jazeera that even a minor role for civilians was a welcome step.

"The government has given civilians some room to campaign in these polls, although very small, it is still significant for those living in Myanmar," she said. "The international community needs to understand that any form of space here means a lot to its citizens."

Alberto Romulo, the foreign secretary for the Philippines, said on the sidelines of an Asian summit in Vietnam that Myanmar authorities said top military leader Than Shwe wouldn't run in the election.

"It remains to be seen (whether he will bow out) but my feeling is that he will be elected to a higher office, perhaps the presidency, something where he still (holds) control," he told the news agency.

The presidency is an unelected position in Myanmar.

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