The junta chief confirmed yesterday that the country’s first general elections in two decades will be held this year but gave no date for the balloting, expected to exclude pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In a message marking the anniversary of independence from Britain in 1948, Senior General Than Shwe said the regime’s seven-step roadmap was the only way for the country to move toward democracy. “Plans are underway to hold the elections in a systematic way this year and the entire people have to make correct choices,” Than Shwe said in a message printed in state-run newspapers.
Police probe girl’s suicide
An 11-year-old Indian girl who had appeared on television reality shows apparently committed suicide after her parents withdrew her from a dance school, media reported yesterday. Police were called to a flat in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai on Saturday after Neha Sawant was found hanging by a dupatta, or scarf, inside a locked room, the Mumbai Mirror said. The child, described as an amazing dancer and who had performed on three television talent shows, was taken to hospital but pronounced dead on arrival. Senior police inspector Subhash Divekar, leading the investigation, said there was no question of foul play, as the door was locked from the inside.
Politician’s home attacked
The home of a politician scheduled to go on trial this week over the massacre of 57 people was attacked with a grenade, police said yesterday. The grenade exploded behind a mosque in the compound of Andal Ampatuan Snr in the southern city of Shariff Aguak late on Sunday, provincial police commander Senior Superintendent Alex Lenesis said. A few minutes later, a mortar shell exploded near a petrol station in the same city but both blasts were small and no one was hurt, Lenesis said. The police said the attacks could have been carried out by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim rebel group which is a longtime enemy of the Ampatuan clan. “We suspect it was the work of MILF rebels out to get even with the Ampatuans,” Lenesis said, adding that police were not ruling out “lawless elements” outside the MILF.
Boat capsizes, 18 dead
At least 18 New Year’s revelers, including seven children, were feared drowned after an overcrowded boat capsized in a river in eastern India, officials said yesterday. About 29 people were on board the small boat when it capsized late on Sunday in West Bengal state’s Kolaghat town, about 60km from Kolkata, the state capital. “Operations are on to trace bodies and chances of rescuing any more survivors looks slim,” C.D. Lama, a senior government official, said after 11 people were rescued by fishermen.
Roadside bombs kill six
Roadside bombs that struck two vehicles in the volatile northwest on Sunday have killed a former irrigation minister and three others in one of the attacks and two anti-Taliban tribal elders in the other. The attacks on Sunday were the latest targeting public officials and private citizens who are combating the growing Taliban-led insurgency, part of a wave of retaliatory violence that has killed more than 600 people in the past two-and-a-half months. A single attack on Friday killed nearly 100 people when a suicide car bomber struck a sports event near a meeting of tribesmen who supervise an anti-Taliban militia near the South Waziristan tribal area.