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  Asia-Pacific
Condemning Military Election in Burma
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
The Burmese communities living in different parts of the world have started coordinated demonstrations against the military controlled election in their country. After observing the Global Day of Action on May 27 in different parts of the world, the exile Burmese activists are celebrating the birthday of pro-democracy icon, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi spreading the message that the great lady continues to be a symbol
of freedom and democracy for people in Burma.

The Ten Alliances of Burma’s movement for democracy and ethnic rights has prepared to observe the 65th birthday on June 17 with various programmes including the screening of films about the people of Burma’s opposition to the junta promoted election in the Bangkok based Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.

Earlier the exiled Burmese and their supporters participated in the Global Day of Action organized in more than 20 countries around the globe. They termed the proposed general election (probably on October 10 next) by the military regime of Burma as military’s election and continued their call for a genuine people’s election there.

The last election in Burma on May 27, 1990 resulted in an overwhelming victory for the pro-democracy opposition parties, but the military junta did not hand over power to the elected representatives. The Burmese exile groups demonstrated their resentment against the imposed military election in Burma organizing rallies primarily in front of Burmese Embassy, United Nations building and other public places on the day to draw the attention of the international community.

The pro-democracy Burmese activists based in India also staged a demonstration and a symbolic people’s election at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on the same day. A memorandum was also sent to the Union government by the demonstrators with various demands and appeals.

The Global Day of Action under the Global Campaign Against Burma’s 2010 military election was initiated by Ten Alliances of Burma’s democracy and ethnic rights movement representing broad-based and multi-ethnic cooperation of political and civil society organizations from inside and outside Burma. The initiative, which has been endorsed by over 150 organizations in the world, is aimed to raise voices
against the plight of Burmese people including the monks.

The ten alliances including National Council of the Union of Burma, Democratic Alliance of Burma, National Democratic Front, National League for Democracy-Liberated Area, Members of Parliamentary Union, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, Forum for Democracy in Burma, Women’s League of Burma, Students and Youth Congress of Burma and Nationalities Youth Forum inspired demonstrations against the Burmese junta in various cities of the world.

The protest rallies held during the last week of May in Tokyo (Japan), Taipei (Taiwan), Seoul (South Korea), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Melbourne (Australia), Paris (France), Geneva (Switzerland), Stockholm (Sweden), San Francisco (USA) etc., specifically targeted the ruling junta named State Peace and Development Council for its anti-people policy and practices.

Meanwhile, thousands of the Burmese community living in exile had signed postcards and that way voted in favour of Suu Kyi and a democratic federal union of Burma. The signed postcards even call on the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to denounce the forthcoming 2010 elections in Burma and reject the results unless the Burmese regime changes its repressive actions.

“It is already clear that the military’s elections this year will not be a step forward that Burma needs. The National League for Democracy and many ethnic groups have already decided that they cannot participate in such a sham election. The Indian government should stand with them and the people of Burma in demanding genuine democratic elections, rather than supporting the military’s sham elections,” said Dr Tint Swe, MP elect in 1990 election.

The NLD and other democratic parties of Burma recorded a landslide victory in the 1990 general election, but the junta did not recognize the outcome of the polls. And shockingly, the group of Generals imprisoned many opposition political leaders and many elected representatives left the country to take refuge in foreign countries.

The military junta has once again declared a general election sometime later this year. But the electoral laws released prior to the exercise indicated that the junta was still uncomfortable with Suu Kyi. Over 2000 political activists are still behind bars in Burma and they will never be allowed to take part in the election.

The Nobel laureate Suu Kyi and her party NLD with many other opposition parties have already expressed their strong resentment against the election and also the 2008 Constitution. These parties would not join the polls as a mark of protest against the flawed electoral laws.

Speaking to this writer from New Delhi, Tint Swe of NLD (now de-registered) also added, “The people of Burma put their choices bravely twenty years ago, but their mandates were bulldozed by the junta. We reaffirm our conviction that the people of Burma deserve the freedom to choose their future for themselves.”

Condemning the military dictatorship of Burma as well as flawed its election laws, the senior Burmese political leader demanded the immediate release of all political prisoners. He also asked for a genuine political dialogue with opposition and ethnic groups of Burma before the election.

“We, the exile Burmese in India or anywhere in the globe are actually calling on international governments to denounce the proposed Burmese election and reject the results under this situation. The Chinese and Indian governments with the member-countries under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are being urged primarily, as those nations
have maximum influences on the junta,” said Pu Kim, a Burmese political activist based in New Delhi.

Earlier the European Union and Association of Southeast Asian Nations urged the Burmese government to ensure a credible and transparent election. In a joint statement on May 26, both the organizations insisted that the junta should go for ‘a credible, transparent and inclusive process’ for the proposed election.

But their statement invited critical comments from the Burma Campaign UK. Reacting sharply, the pressure group termed the joint statement on Burma by the EU and ASEAN which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the
Philippines, as ‘pathetic’ and ‘irresponsible.’

“The statement bizarrely calls on the dictatorship to ‘continue to engage in meaningful manner with the international community, including ASEAN and the UN’. Both the EU and ASEAN are fully aware that the dictatorship has not been engaging in a meaningful manner with the international community, yet they use the word ‘continue.’

Why are they issuing factually incorrect statements which present the dictatorship in more positive light?” asked Mark Farmaner of Burma Campaign UK.

He also added, “The statement also calls on the elections to be made free and fair, even though the EU and ASEAN are aware that this is impossible and that the dictatorship has no intention of making them so. Both the EU and ASEAN are also fully aware that the new constitution introduced after the election is designed to maintain dictatorship, making the question of whether elections are free and fair completely irrelevant.”

“After almost five decades of military rule, the people of Burma want real, democratic, people’s elections. It is now clear, however, that the military regime’s first election in 20 years will be nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to legitimize military rule,” stated a Press release from Burma Partnership, the campaign secretariat of Global Campaign Against Burma’s 2010 military election.

“We expect a unified worldwide action against the military rulers of Burma would finally help in denouncing the proposed sham election. We also want the election result not be recognized by the international community,” said Thin Thin Aung, a lady Burmese exile in India. She also added, “We demand for release of all political prisoners including Suu Kyi, cessation of hostilities against ethnic & democracy groups and review of the 2008 constitution.”

Even the ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan admitted in an interview that the Burma election might not be perfect. But the soft spoken gentleman and former Thai foreign minister argued that it would be the beginning of an initiative emphasizing on a genuine national reconciliation and finally would lead for a real democracy in Burma.



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Nava Thakuria, who serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times, is based in Guwahati of Northeast India. He also contributes articles for many media outlets based in different parts of the glove, and can be contacted at navathakuria@gmail.com

 

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