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Opposition questions Myanmar election plan

  • Story Highlights
  • Opposition reacts with skepticism to election plan
  • Myanmar's military government announced that it will hold elections in 2010
  • A national referendum to approve a new constitution will be held in May
  • The military refused to hand over power after elections in 1990

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(CNN) -- Pro-democracy opposition leaders from Myanmar have reacted with skepticism and concern about the ruling military junta's announced plan to hold a referendum on a new constitution in May and national elections in 2010.

Myanmar has been under mounting pressure over its crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

State-run media from Myanmar -- also known as Burma -- reported Saturday that decrees issued by the regime said the constitutional referendum was the fourth step of a "seven-step road map to democracy." It said the 2010 elections would choose a representative government to replace the military junta.

The Irrawaddy, an online newspaper published by Burmese exiles, quoted a spokesman of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) as noting that the new constitution was drawn up by a committee chosen by the junta and that opposition groups were left out of the process.

"If the junta only does this kind of one-sided proposal, it will mean the military junta will continue its rule in Burma," Nyan Win told Irrawaddy.

A leader of the 88 Generation Students, an opposition coalition group, questioned how there could be a free and fair referendum since the junta issued a decree in 1996 outlawing any criticism of the national convention.

"That means the Burmese people could face a bloodbath in the future because there is no meaningful resolution in the junta's plans, and there will be mass protests again if the people do not get a real democracy," Tun Myint Aung said.

Myanmar last held multiparty elections in 1990, but the military junta ignored the results. The regime has come under intense international pressure, especially after using force last year to suppress a pro-democracy movement.

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The junta last September suppressed the biggest pro-democracy protests in two decades. At least 30 people are believed to have been killed, according to The Associated Press. Thousands more were detained, though most have since been released.

After violently quelling the protests, the junta came under increased international pressure to work toward political reconciliation and quickly return to democracy. At least 30 people died in the crackdown, according to a U.N. estimate.

The country's most prominent human rights activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been held in varying degrees of detention for 12 of the past 18 years. A Nobel peace Prize winner, Suu Kyi remains under house arrest.

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Her National League for Democracy won the country's first free multiparty elections in 1990 -- the first in 30 years -- but the military junta refused to hand over power.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962 and has not had a constitution since the last one was scrapped in 1988, when the army brutally put down earlier pro-democracy demonstrations. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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