Japan, Australia concerned over Myanmar disbanding Suu Kyi party

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi attends Invest Myanmar in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang

(Reuters) - Japan and Australia on Wednesday expressed their concern over the dissolution of Myanmar's former ruling party and urged the military government to pursue a more inclusive process to return the country to democracy.

Myanmar's ruling junta on Tuesday disbanded Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) and 39 other parties over their failure to meet a deadline to register for an election that is set to extend the army's grip on power.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since a military coup in early 2021 that upended a decade of tentative democracy, with a bloody crackdown on protests giving rise to an armed struggle against the junta. More than a million people have been displaced by fighting, according to the United Nations.

Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 77, is serving 33 years in prison for various offences and dozens of her NLD allies are also in jail or have fled. The NLD had repeatedly ruled out running in the election, for which no date has been set, calling it illegitimate.

"We are seriously concerned that the exclusion of the NLD from the political process will make it even more difficult to improve the situation," Japan's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Japan strongly urges Myanmar to immediately release NLD officials, including Suu Kyi, and to show a path toward a peaceful resolution of the issue in a manner that includes all parties concerned."

A spokesperson for Myanmar's military could not immediately be reached for comment. Its leader Min Aung Hlaing on Monday urged international critics to get behind his efforts to restore democracy.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was seriously concerned about a further narrowing of political space in Myanmar due to tough election registration requirements.

It said all stakeholders should be allowed to participate in the political process and warned their exclusion could lead to further violence and instability.

"We will continue to closely monitor the regime's actions, and call for the restoration of democracy including credible elections," it said in a statement.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo and Rishabh Jaiswal in Bengaluru; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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