BANGKOK—Burmese authorities have instructed businessmen with ties to the ruling junta to show support for the government by running as candidates in 2010 general elections, according to a source close to the cabinet.
Many businessmen have agreed and are planning to run for legislative office representing their hometowns, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Some current cabinet ministers will also stand for election from their hometowns, the source said. They include Minister for Industry U Aung Thaung, who will represent Taungtha township, and Planning and Economics Minister U Soe Tha, who will represent Twante township.
The junta has announced the polls under its so-called "roadmap to democracy," but critics have denounced the vote as a sham designed to solidify military rule.
The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) won 1990 elections by a wide margin but was never allowed to take power.
Authorities announced last year that NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest, was barred from running for a legislative seat.
A selection process has been completed, identifying 110 candidates representing the military and 330 candidates representing businessmen and ministers, the source said, adding that elections laws and procedures will likely be announced in late April or early May.
A businessman who has seen the draft law said it includes provisions requiring candidates to register over a two-month period, and stipulating that any party that fails to register for the election will be shut down.
Politicians in the former capital, Rangoon, speculate that the junta is anxious about organizing the polls ahead of the possible release in May of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Calling on business leaders
Speaking in the new capital, Naypyidaw, on Tuesday, Prime Minister Thein Sein urged businessmen to display unity with the junta ahead of next year’s elections.
“As the government is implementing the tasks step by step within the time frame towards a new democratic nation which people expect, the main step of the country's future elections will be held,” Thein Sein said.
“I believe that we can implement this road map to form the Union of Republic of Myanmar [Burma] by uniting together with national businessmen,” he told an annual meeting of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962 and is under tough Western sanctions because of its poor human rights records and continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Businessmen who have agreed to stand for election include Yuzana U Htay Myint from Mergui, Ko Zaw Zaw from Yekyi, U Than Lwin from Khayan, Zegabar U Khin Shwe from Kawhmu, U Chit Khaing from Danubyu, and U Win Myint from Tantze, the source said.
Original reporting for RFA's Burmese service by Kyaw Kyaw Aung. Translated by Soe Thinn. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.