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More on Generation

More on Generation

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Published by: ျမတ္ေလးငံု on Aug 31, 2010
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News» Investigative Report
Burma's vote to nowhere 
Political opposition groups say the country's first national elections in 20 years arenothing more than an elaborate pretence designed to ease power from the ruling militarydictatorship to its civilian proxy, the Union Solidarity Development Party
Published: 29/08/2010 at 05:11 AM
Newspaper section:Spectrum In the lead-up to the 2010 elections, the regime has jailed hundreds of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. It has also introduced a series ofelectoral laws and campaign restrictions to stifle the opposition, all while claiming the measures are to make sure the elections are "free and fair".
KEEPING THE FAITH: Moe Zaw straightens a picture of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.Moe Zaw Oo, joint secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in exile, says the international community's initial insistence that theopposition should accept the regime's election unconditionally despite the restrictions was destructive, naive and at best misplaced.Speaking from the Thai-Burma border last week, Moe Zaw said the warning signs that the regime was not acting in the best interests of the Burmesepeople were there for all to see.
"There's not an opposition politician in any democratic society who would accept the military regime's conditions for the [Nov 7] election. Nobodyshould be surprised the election is rigged _ look at the electoral laws. Look at the Electoral Commission. Look at the 2008 constitution. It's all part of along-term strategy to transfer and consolidate the military's power to a hand-picked civilian-based political organisation."WATCHING AND WAITING: Moe Zaw talks to an NLD member, holding a poster.Moe Zaw is scathing in his assessment of international academics, political analysts, international think tanks and long-time Burma watchers, who hesays in their stampede to get a foot in Burma's barely-opening door were prepared to sweep aside the corruption, lies, deceit, electoral fraud and theregime's appalling track record on human rights."So many of these groups got it wrong. These [Western and Asean] countries need to take a close look at what they pay their so-called 'experts' andassess what they're getting for their dollar. Their track record on what is happening in Burma is dismal. They treat Burma as if it's an intellectualexercise for their amusement. They [the international community] should have been listening and acting on what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and what theNLD was telling them from the beginning."Speaking on Australia's ABC radio, Michael Maley, an expert on electoral reform, said those who regard compromise as an acceptable election optionshould reconsider what they want from a free and fair poll in Burma.Mr Maley lists a series of checks and tests to assess if an election is free and fair: "The need for impartial administration of the vote, transparency,secret voting, no vote buying or multiple voting, an absence of intimidation and the ability to count ballots accurately."Mr Maley told the ABC's Linda Mottram he disagreed with the line that any election is better than none, and said "a crooked election sold as a validexercise is a blasphemy".Moe Zaw says nobody, least of all the international community, should be surprised that the regime's carefully crafted election was designed to sidelineBurma's biggest opposition party, the NLD. He cites Burma's last national elections held 20 years ago as proof of the NLD's popularity with voters.In 1990, in spite of massive military intimidation, the NLD won a decisive victory _ 392 seats, 80% of the vote. The people had spoken, but thegenerals' response was to jail the NLD leaders, its elected representatives and its members and supporters. Mrs Suu Kyi, the NLD leader, has spent14 of the last 20 years under some form of detention. The military regime plans to release her later this year, but will probably wait until after it wins theNov 7 election.
IN EXILE: Khun Myint.Moe Zaw says the late announcement of the regime's election laws leaves little to chance and gives the opposition no space to manoeuvre theircandidates into place or talk to the voters.One of the electoral laws, the Political Party Registration Law, allows the committee to reject party applications. It also bans democracy organisations,armed groups opposed to the regime, groups or individuals receiving foreign support and about 2,100 political prisoners from taking part in theelections. This includes Mrs Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as well as 430 jailed NLD members.At the time of their announcement the electoral laws drew strong criticism from Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch."The new laws' assault on opposition groups is sadly predictable. It continues the sham political process that is aimed at creating the appearance ofcivilian rule with a military spine." The electoral laws also nullify the results of the 1990 election.David Mathieson, a Burma expert at Human Rights Watch, acknowledged that the regime's preparations for the election have been carefullyorchestrated. "The regime is leaving nothing to chance in their quest to guarantee they continue to keep power. They have cynically used theconstitution, the electoral laws, the trial and the jailing of Aung San Suu Kyi and the imprisonment of 2,100 political opponents to do so." Mr Mathiesonsays those who think the election is an opportunity to crack open an imperfect system are way off the mark."Anyone who believes it is going to be a new dawn after the election is deluding themselves."
Khun Myint Tun, an exiled Burmese member of parliament, who in 1990 won the seat of Phaton in Mon State, says the 2010 elections are not the startof a transition to democracy, but rather another step in the regime's continuing consolidation of its authority."There is no freedom of association, no freedom of assembly and no freedom of speech."How can anyone claim these elections will be free and fair?"Khun Myint has personal experience of how far the regime is prepared to go to maintain its climate of fear and oppression over its political opponents."I was jailed for seven years and kept in solitary confinement for having a booklet about non-violent struggle in my possession. I was denied food andwater, and for five nights and days I was made to sit hooded on a stool while military intelligence officers interrogated me. My hood was only removedat meal times and for toilet breaks. I was not allowed to sleep."Khun Myint says it baffles him when international analysts and political pundits claim Burma is experiencing election fever."They are reading into it what's not there. Why not see the reality that is there, like the regime reserving 25% of seats for serving military officers _ that's 110 uncontested seats they will automatically get in the lower house."Under the constitution the president has to have military experience, and the military will control three key ministries; defence, home affairs and borderarea administration."Khun Myint says the international community is only looking at Burma in the short term and what natural resources can be exploited.

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