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ASEAN must have a specific evaluation on unfair polls in Burma

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The Burmese politicians, who were eager to run in the incoming elections hoping a political space, were in for a big shock when they saw the 'Election Commission's Directive No.2/2010 dated 21 June, 2010' in the state's daily papers. The analysts view the junta's poll process as "Entanglements' for there will be more and more complicated regulations before the unknown election date.

Political parties in Burma that want to assemble and give speeches at a designated place must apply to the Election Commission (EC) for permission at least seven days prior to the event, according to state-run media. The new 'EC Directive No.2/2010 dated 21 June, 2010' was published on 23 June, requiring political parties to provide the specific place, date, starting and finishing time, and the name and address of speakers. The EC will issue a permit or reject the request at least 48 hours before the requested date.

Political parties seeking new members ahead of Myanmar's historic elections were warned in the directive they are not allowed chanting slogans in procession or giving talks and distributing publications tarnishing the image of the ruling junta. The directive also says not to disturb any public places such as government offices, organizations, factories, workplaces, workshops, markets, sport grounds, religious places, schools and people's hospitals.

The restrictions are part of the 14-article directive published by the EC that governs how parties recruit new members. All parties contesting elections planned for later this year are required to have at least 1,000 members within 90 days of being granted registration.

The EC head, Thein Soe, pronounced last month that international monitors would not be allowed to observe the elections. After the 2008 constitutional referendum, the junta announced the bill was allegedly supported by more than 90 per cent of the population, despite complaints of widespread vote rigging and bullying of voters. Candidates from some registered parties have also complained that special privileges are being offered to the Union Solidarity and Development Party headed by Burma's Prime Minister Thein Sein, while other civilian parties are being hindered in their campaign processes.

The junta has not declared an election date. So far, out of 42 new political parties 33 have been approved by the Election Commission and five existing parties have re-registered to contest in the coming elections. International criticism has not succeeded to free detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party overwhelmingly won the last election in 1990, but was never permitted to run the office.

Under current election laws made by the military regime, Aung San Suu Kyi and 2,200 political prisoners are totally disqualified from taking part in the elections.

Her National League for Democracy party has criticized the laws unfair and undemocratic and will stay away from the vote. The NLD was disbanded after refusing to register for the elections by a deadline on 6 May, 2010.

Burma has fallen under military boots since 1962. The regime has earned the distrustful reputation of being one of the world's worst human rights violators.

It brutally suppressed pro-democracy movements in 1988, May 30, 2003, Depayin conspiracy and Saffron Revolution in Sept 2007. There were many more sporadic crackdowns. The junta has arrested around 2,200 political dissidents including Burma's Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been confined to her residence for 15 of the last 21 years.

The regime held a unilateral referendum at gun point on May 10 and 24. The 2008 Constitution, the junta said, was approved by more than 90 per cent of eligible voters during a referendum in May 2008; just a few days after Cyclone Nargis devastated the country. The outcome of the referendum was widely dismissed as a sham, but the regime has ignored calls from the international community and main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, to review the Constitution which will cause trouble upon the Burmese people.

The new elections planned in 2010 will legalize military rule. It is convinced that the procedure will not be free and fair. Just like the referendum held at gun-point.

The socio-economic atmosphere is worsening. The junta will not be able to manage the socio-economic situation, which is failing fast. It will soon come face-to-face with a "desolate" future if it continues to refuse the national reconciliation process being urged by the opposition the National League for Democracy (NLD), the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA) and the exile dissident groups.

NLD and UNA point out that the ratification of the constitution staged by the Junta is unacceptable. Both declare that the ratification was carried out against the will of the people and without observing internationally known norms for referendums. The junta also does not show respect the successive resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) calling for return of democratic system in Burma through a tripartite dialogue between the Junta led by Senior General Than Shwe, democratic forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of ethnic nationalities. From turn of events it is clear that the junta has no plan to heed the UN call and to release political prisoners, which is a pre-condition to facilitate the tripartite dialogue.

Looking at the fact on the ground, there is more belligerences in these days, more military attacks in the ethnic minority areas, more arrests, more political prisoners, and more restrictions toward media, more control on Internet users and civil societies. So, situation needs to be very cautious and to put more pressure on the regime until the said benchmarks are carried out.

Today's question for regional groupings such as ASEAN and EU - and International Community is to think over whether Burma is planning to become a tyrannical or a democratic state? According to a Burmese saying, a tiger is a tiger and it never lives on grass. Then, if someone says a dictator would build a democratic country, it may be an object of ridicule for the Burmese populace.

There are still arguments for ASEAN to abandon its long standing policy of non-interference in another country's internal affairs if the affairs of a country spilled over and affected regional security. ASEAN's policy-makers have to debate on the Burma Question in the forthcoming ASEAN meetings. ASEAN should have a specific evaluation of its policy towards Burma under the military dictatorship for the sake of the association's reliability in favor of the whole region.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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