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Burma needs practical agenda ahead of sham elections

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Burma is still in a socioeconomic nightmare under the inhumane military reign for the past half a century. In time of every important international meeting, people of Burma hope for their chance to liberty. As always, they also looked for their chance during the 43rd ASEAN Foreign Ministerial Meeting (AMM) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi July 19-23, 2010.

Japan's Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada has urged his Burma/Myanmar counterpart, Nyan Win, to guarantee the participation of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the general election scheduled later this year, as reported by Japanese officials.

On 21 July, Okada met with Nyan Win on the sidelines of the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and asked the ruling junta to release Burma's prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for the last 15 years, before the election and carry out a free and fair election, according to the Japan Times.

The Myanmar minister said the country's new constitution doesn't bar Suu Kyi from becoming a Member of Parliament and that she will be able to take part in the election as soon as she is released, the Japanese newspaper revealed.

Noticing Nyan Win's reply to Mr. Okada, many people of Burma are annoyed over his forked tongued response. Japan's Foreign Minister should also be cautious on Nyan Win's slyness. In fact according to reports, Nyan Win is just a puppet who has no power to talk on a political issue. The man who calls the shots is the junta's chief Than Shwe.

That's why Nyan Win could not find any word when counterparts or journalists posed questions. He has to take lesson from his predecessor Win Aung, who died in Rangoon's notorious Insein prison in November 2009.

Earlier, on 9 February, 2004 the late Foreign Minister Win Aung said that the Pro-Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be freed from house arrest soon, at the BIMST-EC regional economic cooperation meeting held in Phuket, Thailand. Subsequently, in September of 2004, Win Aung was dismissed from his post. He's only a political pawn being used by Than Shwe in the struggle for power.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan told reporters on the sideline of the ASEAN Regional Forum that Myanmar's FM Nyan Win "got an earful" of criticism from his regional colleagues about the need for elections scheduled later this year, to be fair and credible. However, Mr. Surin and his regional colleagues should also distinguish who is the puppet and who is calling the shots in the military ruled country.

The international community, including the UN, EU and ASEAN, as well as pro-democracy and ethnic nationality groups from inside and outside Burma has constantly called for the 2010 elections to be free and fair. But the junta has turned a deaf ear to release political prisoners, stop its hostilities on ethnic nationalities, and failed to launch meaningful dialogue with pro-democracy and ethnic parties. Without such fundamental conditions, there may not be free and fair elections.

Eventhough the international community's repeated calls for "free and fair" elections, the junta's legal structure for the polls, including five laws issued in March and Directive No.2/2010 issued in June, is totally unjust and difficult to deal with. The restrictions are part of the 14-article Directive 2/2010 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.

Political parties seeking new members ahead of elections were warned in the directive that 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 hospitals.

The Political Parties Registration Law was designed to prevent parties from propagating, recruiting and seeking financial assistance by dealing with the public ahead of the election. Besides, parties must put forward a list to the EC within 90 days of registration with details of party members at least 1,000 members for a party that plans to contest the election nationwide and 500 members for provincial parties.

The EC will disband any party that falls short of the minimum number of party members or whose members fail to meet the requirements of the junta's Constitution and election laws.

The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) said that the directive released by Burma's election commission (EC) which prohibits political parties from marching in procession to designated gathering points or venues while displaying party flags is a violation of human rights.

However, Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), has reportedly been recruiting party members in various parts of Burma even prior to the USDP being given permission by the Election Commission to campaign. The USDP, led by the junta's PM Thein Sein, is expected to win what analysts have claimed as a sham election intended for entrenching military rule. Ethnic parties have complained that the USDP party is hindering the efforts of other parties. Promising candidates have grumbled that the USDP was given special opportunities by the Election Commission and granted approval to run in the polls early on, while other parties struggled with the registration process and large finances required to run.

The USDP is predictable to take part all constituencies of the union parliament as well as parliaments of states and divisions of the country in the upcoming election later this year. A quarter of Burma's parliaments will be reserved for military officials appointed by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

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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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