Myanmar's state media today warned that citizens must vote "without fail" in the upcoming election and accused those advocating a boycott of misleading the people.
"Every citizen who values democracy and wants democratic rule must cast their votes without fail," said an editorial in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a junta mouthpiece, ahead of the first elections in 20 years on November 7. "However, some people are inciting the people to refrain from voting in the elections. They are attempting to mislead the people who are walking along the road to multiparty democracy for a change of a new era with instigated words," it said.
The pro-democracy movement in the army-ruled country has been deeply split between those who are taking part in the hope of gradual change and others who are refusing to participate, saying the poll will entrench military rule.
Detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said she will refuse to cast a ballot and suggested her supporters consider doing the same, although she stopped short of an outright call for a voter boycott. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) has been officially disbanded after deciding not to participate in the poll.
An attempt to encourage a boycott "is tantamount not only to violating the democratic right of other people but also to barring their own right." The newspaper added, "The multiparty democracy general election is the first step towards the emergence of a democratic country."
The poll, in which junta-backed candidates have hefty advantages and a quarter of seats are reserved for the military, has been widely criticised by Western countries and activists as a sham that will entrench army rule.
The NLD, which won the last election by a landslide but was never allowed to take power, recently said this year's poll would only "prolong the military dictatorship", describing the rules as "totally unfair". A group of former NLD members has formed a new party, the National Democratic Force (NDF), to stand in the election - a move that has put it at odds with Suu Kyi, who has spend most of the last two decades locked up