By Aung Hla Tun
YANGON (Reuters) - A bomb blast at a rural Myanmar election commission office has stirred fears of violence during the first polls in two decades next month in the reclusive military-run nation, state media reported on Friday.
A device made from TNT exploded late on Wednesday at a government office in Bago Township, about 80 km (50 miles) north of the biggest city Yangon, but there were no casualties reported and staff had closed the office 45 minutes earlier.
Union Election Commission officials were using the office to coordinate the local ballot. State newspapers, which are mouthpieces of the junta that has ruled for the last 48 years, said the bombing was an attempt to derail the November 7 polls.
"They are trying to ramp up instigations and destructive acts with intent to disrupt the upcoming democracy elections," said Friday's state newspapers.
The media blamed "insurgents, destructive elements and political opportunists" for the bombing.
Critics of Myanmar's army rulers have dismissed the election as a sham to create a military-dominated system run by generals and their proxies with little change to the status quo.
The military has a 25 percent quota of all legislative seats and scores of generals have retired from the army to run in the polls. Several parties are serving as proxies for the regime and most of the junta's opposition is hamstrung by strict rules.
DOUBTS OVER SUU KYI
The house arrest term of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the figurehead of Myanmar's pro-democracy struggle, expires six days after the poll and speculation is rife that the regime might detain her longer to stop her or her supporters from derailing the formation of a new government.
Many people doubt the junta will honor its pledge to free Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 of the last 21 years in detention. Her lawyer, Nyan Win, said further incarceration would be unlawful.
"She must be freed on November 13 because her term expires on that day and there is not a law to extend it further," he said.
Separately, a court this week sentenced 12 people to prison terms between five and 23 years for bomb plots and another court handed down a 15-year term to a Buddhist monk for attempting to disrupt the elections, their lawyers said on Thursday.
That was followed by the arrest of six students from Dagon University and Hmawbi Technical Institutes in Yangon for distributing leaflets with anti-election slogans, university sources told Reuters.
The junta takes a zero-tolerance approach to dissent and rights groups say 2,200 people are now in prison for expressing their political views.
Myanmar has given no indication it will bow to Western pressure to release detainees before the election.
(Editing by Martin Petty and Alex Richardson)
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