Aung San Suu Kyi will not be allowed to run for election under Burma's proposed new constitution, which has now been drafted ahead of a referendum in May.
Burma ruling military junta says the referendum – if approved – will clear the way for democratic elections in 2010, the first since Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party scored a landslide victory in 1990 polls.
The junta never recognised the result and yesterday announced on state television that a special commission had finished the final draft of the charter.
Foreign Minister Nyan Win told a regional gathering in Singapore that the document would bar Aung San Suu Kyi from running because she had been married to a foreigner.
Her party denounced his remarks as “unjust,” saying the military appeared to be making plans for the elections before knowing the outcome of the referendum.
“There is not yet a law to govern the elections which are to be held in 2010. It's unjust for the authorities to talk in advance about the elections,” said NLD spokesman Nyan Win.
Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said his Burma counterpart had explicitly told a gathering of regional ministers that Aung San Suu Kyi would not be allowed to run because she married Michael Aris, a British citizen who died of cancer in Britain in 1999.
They have two children who are also British nationals.
“He (Nyan Win) was quite clear that in the new constitution, a Myanmar (Burma) citizen who has a foreign husband, who has children not citizens of Myanmar would be disqualified as was of the 1974 constitution,” Mr Yeo said.
Nyan Win made the remarks during a dinner cruise off Singapore's waters involving Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers.
Mr Yeo said the foreign ministers expressed their views that the exclusion was “not (in) keeping with the times” and “that certainly such a provision would be very odd in any other country in ASEAN.”
But Mr Yeo also said “it is their own country, that is their own history and what can we do about it?”
Burma's current junta scrapped the 1974 charter when it seized power in 1988, crushing a pro-democracy uprising as soldiers opened fire on protesters and killed at least 3,000 people.
Two years later, the regime organised elections that the NLD won. The junta ignored the result and instead has kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years.
The NLD had warned on Monday that to achieve democracy, Burma's rulers must first respect their victory in the 1990 elections.
Burma still has not released the final version of its proposed charter, but the head of the drafting commission, Supreme Court chief justice Aung Toe, indicated in state media that not many changes had been made from guidelines already made public.
Limits on political parties
In addition to barring Aung San Suu Kyi from office, those guidelines imposed stiff limits on the activities of political parties and reserved one quarter of seats in parliament for serving military officers.
The regime announced its timetable for elections amid mounting international pressure over its crackdown on peaceful demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in September, when the United Nations says at least 31 people were killed.
A group of Nobel laureates called for an arms embargo against Burma, dismissing elections planned for 2010 as flawed if Aung San Suu Kyi is barred.
The seven laureates, including Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and South Africa's anti-apartheid cleric Desmond Tutu, said the junta should face sanctions for its crackdown on monks.
Burma's generals have ignored calls to free Aung San Suu Kyi and open a political dialogue, instead sticking to their own “roadmap,” which critics say will enshrine the military's rule.
The UN special envoy for Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, has visited the country twice since September in a bid to open talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and the military.
The junta had told him that he would not be allowed to return to the country until April 15, but in Beijing yesterday Mr Gambari said that he expected to be allowed to return to the country “way before” then.