Burma Bars Foreign Reporters & Monitors from National Electi

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There's just under three weeks until Burma's first election in 20 years is held. But controversy is brewing... international poll monitors and foreign journalists will not be allowed to participate and report on the vote. It's deepening concerns that next month's poll will be a sham.

Burma's military rulers say international poll monitors and foreign journalists will be barred from the country's first election in 20 years.

The United States, Britain and Burma's Southeast Asian neighbors have urged the military junta to allow independent election monitors at the November 7 election.

Critics say the election will actually strengthen the military's grip on power under the guise of civilian rule.

The election is the first since 1990, when Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party won in a landslide result that was ignored by the military.

Critics say the ruling generals are tightly controlling campaign activities this time, to ensure their candidates win the most votes.

In July, the 10-state Association of South East Asian Nations offered to send monitors, to help ensure the elections would be internationally recognized as free and fair.

Foreign journalists are routinely denied official visas to report inside Burma, but many news organizations hoped to send media to cover next month's poll.

Only China's state-run Xinhua News Agency has permission to employ foreign nationals in the country.

The election candidates are keeping their campaigns in quiet corners even though there are only a few weeks before voters cast their ballots.

Under strict election regulations, politicians are required to submit requests in advance for permission to stage a political rally.

Candidates are banned from holding flags and chanting in processions, or distributing publications that "tarnish the image" of the state or the military.

Over 3,000 candidates from 37 parties will contest for the 1,171 seats in nationaland regional parliaments.

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