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  Asia-Pacific
Burma Election, Refugees and Media’s Role
By Nava Thakuria
Special Correspondent
A day-long media workshop on the forthcoming military sponsored election in Burma (Myanmar) and its implication on hundred thousand Burmese refugees will take place in the Indian capital on September 27.

Organised by Burma Centre Delhi and Burma Center Prague, the workshop will accommodate journalists from both Europe and Asia. The workshop on September 27 will be followed by a press conference in the Press Club of India, New Delhi.

It may be mentioned that the military regime of Burma named State Peace and Development Council has recently announced November 7 as its poll date. After 1990, the Southeast Asian country is witnessing the general election for the first time.

Shockingly, the main opposition party of Burma, National League for Democracy is out of the electoral exercise. Its acclaimed leader, the pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is also serving house arrest for years and she will not be entitled to stand as a candidate in the proposed election.

Dr Tint Swe, an exiled Member of Parliament, NCGUB will speak on the Burmese perspective on 2010 election. Dr Swe is living in India for many years and pursuing with the Indian media and civil society for supporting the pro-democracy movement in Burma. The workshop will also be graced by Miloslav Stašek, the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to India.

“Burma is ruled by one of the world's harshest regimes, which have attracted criticism for its poor human rights record, the suppression of ethnic minorities, and an economy that excludes the large majority of Burma's population from its benefits. Several million of Burma's citizens have been forced to leave the country in search of safety and to make a living,” said in a statement from Burma Center Prague.

Sangtae, editor of Khonumthung News will highlight on the situation inside Burma with a focus on Chin state and Burma's election, where as Sumit Chakravarty, editor of Mainstream, Jyoti Malhotra, senior editor & freelance Indian journalist, Vijay Jolly, an Indian politician will discuss about India’s probable role in the developments.

K. Yhome, associate fellow, Observer Research Foundation will specifically speak on New Delhi’s policy on Burma election keeping an eye on the Burmese refugees in India. Soe Myint, editor of Mizzima News will elaborate about the role of Independent Media in the Burma polls, where as N. J. Thakuria will speak about the expected role of Northeast Indian media in the forthcoming Burma election.

Burma's giant neighbour India, which has emerged as an important business partner is seemingly competing with China for its influence on the military regime led by Than Shwe. New Delhi honoured Suu Kyi, the daughter of general Aung San, with prestigious awards. Later, of course, New Delhi adopted Look East Policy and started engaging the military rulers of Burma in various strategic options.

“We have chosen the topics according to their urgency and the apparent disproportion between their high relevance and at the same time low visibility in the media: first, the elections in Burma, scheduled for November 7, and, second, the situation of Burmese refugees living in India. We encourage participants to take a fresh look at these issues from the angle of humanity and to help us in fostering tangible cooperation and partnership on the local level for mutual benefit in the entire region,” commented Christoph Amthor of Burma Center Prague.

Amthor, however, admitted that while most possible solutions to the problem have been probed by regional and global players and found ineffective, recent developments have prompted the regime to call elections, which are criticized for entrenching present power constellations under the pretence of democracy. Still, many observers are optimistic that any change, even if only superficial, could increase the chances of actual transformation, Amthor concluded.

“It is the need of the hour to organize such workshop before the election in Burma and we anticipate that the Indian media will be well informed about the upcoming election in Burma through this workshop,” said Alana Golmei of Burma Centre Delhi commented adding that the main target (of the initiative) is to highlight about this issue in the mainstream Indian media with an effective and progressive way.



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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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